In the interest of full disclosure, Microsoft is currently a client of mine.
Microsoft this week announced Windows CE 5.0, giving us a stronger sense of where Microsoft is driving that platform. Windows CE is the core platform that lies underneath the Windows Mobile products, which include PDAs and cell phones.
It was called CE.NET in its last iteration, a mistake that fell out of the lemminglike behavior at Microsoft during the dot-com years, when everything had to have a .NET after it. The trend, fortunately, stopped just short of renaming the mens and womens restrooms Men.Net and Women.Net, and this release indicates that Microsoft has returned to a more reasonable naming convention.
Windows CE is one of two current-generation embedded platforms that Microsoft sells; the other is Embedded Windows XP. Embedded XP is Windows XP taken down to the very core of the operating system. With Embedded XP, you get all of the potential capabilities of Microsofts desktop OS, but it will run only on x86 and it has a relatively large footprint.
Embedded XP is most often found in products such as Microsofts own XBox, some rich thin-client products such as point-of-sale terminals, and other solutions that require PC capability but dont want or need a full Windows. The biggest difference between the two platforms is that Embedded XP starts out as a full-featured, general-purpose OS and is stripped down to make an embedded offering, while Windows CE starts as an embedded offering and is then built up for specific, and generally customized, purposes.
Windows CE is designed to run on a number of platforms, including x86, ARM and MIPS. It is among the fastest-growing embedded platforms, and because it uses a generic set of Windows tools, its often favored by developers who already support the Windows platform. Products include PDAs, cell phones, exercise equipment, thin-client devices, robots, portable media players, A/V equipment, set top boxes and automotive products.
Microsoft is currently warring with an amorphous group of competitors that are using Linux largely to strip away the companys powerful developer base. As a result, much of what youll see Microsoft do going forward will have a great deal to do with keeping the developers they already have extremely happy with their platforms and tools. Windows CE will be no exception.
Windows CE 5.0 builds on the improvements dropped into CE.NET 4.2 earlier this year. Those improvements included improved Sync with ActiveSync 3.7, security enhancements, better test tools, better and more design templates, stronger portability for applications across the supported platforms, improved multilanguage support, multimedia improvements to the browser component, and wireless improvements.