Microsoft Corp. will unveil Version 2.0 of the Windows CE operating system to ISVs at its Professional Developers Conference in San Diego this week , and will announce it publicly the following week at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, California.
Handheld PC (HPC) II products that run Win CE 2.0 will show up at fall Comdex in Las Vegas. Products that use a scaled-down version of the OS, code-named Gryphon, will be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago in January.
Previously code-named Mercury, the OS will contain a number of surprises for IT managers, who up until now would not have put a Win CE device on their vendor-approved list.
"It will support Ethernet for the first time. The NDIS [Network Driver Interface Specification] networking protocol is built right into the OS," said a source familiar with Version 2.0. "It will allow OEMs to build in Ethernet and hang it off a bus," he said. "It's a handheld PC that's tied to the network."
Adding network connectivity via a PC Card solution for US$150 to $200 was not cost effective, whereas building it into the system makes it "a poor man's network computer," the source said.
The OS will be discussed in detail by Paul Maritz, group vice president of platforms and applications, perhaps in an attempt to stop industry chatter that the company is less than enthusiastic in its support for Win CE in a handheld form factor.
"Gates has always felt that the HPC is a limited market, whereas Win CE for Web TV is almost an unlimited market. HPC obviously taxes the Win CE group, and more development goes into the other stuff. That's why the hardware vendors are pissed," said an industry watcher who declined to be named.
Other features in Version 2.0 that will make it more appealing to corporate buyers are the inclusion of Pocket PowerPoint, the ability to hang a VGA monitor off the bus, and support for a number of different display sizes, from 240 by 200 up to 640 by 480.
In addition, the Microsoft Win CE e-mail client, Pmail, will now support attached files.
Version 2.0 will support MS Foundation Class libraries. Also improved is the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, which will do frames and support scripts in native HTML.
The OEM Adaptation Kit is now modular; before either the entire OS had to be ported or nothing at all. Modularity will allow developers to create smaller, less expensive devices that can use as little as a quarter of a megabyte to run the OS in flash memory.
"In the next six months, sub-$250 products will be available," the industry source said.
The OS will support .wav audio files, and will have limited support for x86 and PowerPC processors. Version 2.0 will also support the Java Virtual Machine.