SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Two days after announcing the next version of its Windows CE embedded operating system, Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday revealed new voice-over-IP features for the release and unveiled a string of VOIP partners during the Spring 2004 VON Conference & Expo here.
Windows CE 5.0, in beta now and due out this summer, will include a greater VOIP focus so that IP phone and other device makers, as well as service providers, can expand their VOIP applications, said Balz Wyss, product manager in Microsofts Embedded Devices Group.
"Our partners told us that the real benefit of VOIP was bringing applications to the forefront as well as value-added services," Wyss said.
While the current Windows CE 4.2 includes VOIP support, it is focused mainly on call-control features such as call forwarding, Wyss said. Windows CE 5.0, among other things, adds multiparty audio conference, integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 for contacts and calendaring and provides automatic provisioning to Session Initiation Protocol servers. It also offers more customization by making most of the VOIP stack shared code with partners.
The Exchange integration, for example, will allow a user to look up others contact information through an IP phone and know whether they are online, Wyss said. With automatic provisioning, an IP phone with CE 5.0 could scan the network for its correct SIP address and access the right SIP server, Wyss said.
Beyond the new feature, Microsoft of Redmond, Wash., over the past 12 months has focused on expanding its VOIP partners for Windows CE, Wyss said. At VON, it announced 13 new VOIP manufacturer partners focused on embedding Windows CE into IP phones and other devices as well as a host of new system integrators.
One such partner, Inter-Tec Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., at VON was demonstrating its Model 8690 IP phone, which is based on Windows CE 4.2 and includes a touch-tone screen for dialing and navigating contacts.
While most partners with products out today are using CE 4.2 or earlier, some partners have developed early prototypes using Windows CE 5.0 with its VOIP features, Wyss said.
Vonage Holdings Corp., well-known for its VOIP service for consumers and small businesses, is one of the first VOIP service providers partnering with Microsofts CE. Vonage has a prototype of a PC-based soft phone built on Windows CE 5.0 that it plans to offer to its customers once the new OS is available, Wyss said.
Windows CE 5.0 also will include native WiFi support on the client side so it can recognize and read all of the WiFi radio frequencies, Wyss said. That functionality also could play a role in VOIP as more device makers work on wireless handsets.
Tokyo-based NEC Infrontia Corp. announced at VON on Wednesday that it is developing wireless IP phones based on Windows CE running on Intel Corp. hardware. The company didnt specify which version of Windows CE it will use but said the phones will allow enterprises to tap into their wireless LANs as well as back-end systems.