Microsoft Set to Announce Talisker Beta

Version 3.1 of the Windows CE operating system is company's first approach in embedded market.

Microsoft Corp. is continuing to embed itself in the embedded systems market.

Earlier this month, the Redmond, Wash., software company announced the first beta of Talisker, the code name for Version 3.1 of the Windows CE operating system, which runs in handheld devices and Internet appliances.

Talisker is slated for wide release by the end of this year or the beginning of next, depending on beta testers responses.

It will best its predecessor by providing a "skinnable" user interface, more focus on multimedia and Web applications, and better security functions, officials said.

Talisker will support Secure Sockets Layer and Kerberos for client-side authentication of secure connections from devices to corporate networks.

It will also support Lightweight Directory Access Protocol as well as new drivers for Universal Serial Bus and IDE technology. More notably, Talisker will include drivers for Bluetooth, the nascent protocol that provides short-range connections among wireless devices. Desktop versions of Windows do not yet support Bluetooth because of a lack of hardware support, but officials on the Windows CE team said they believe that including Bluetooth in Talisker could bolster inclusion of the protocol in future hardware.

In addition, Talisker will support Microsoft protocols including Universal Plug and Play and MediaSense, which enables service discovery among devices beyond basic hardware compatibility.

Microsoft, thus far, is pleased with the level of "industry adoption we are seeing around Windows CE 3.0," said Bill Veghte, vice president of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group at Microsoft. "Talisker ... will enable [developers] to quickly build the next generation of .Net-enabled smart devices."

Talisker will also support multiple monitors, which is helpful in situations such as grocery store checkout lines, where a customer and cashier may want to view data at the same time.

Microsoft is releasing seven new board support packages for Talisker, as there are several types of devices that will run the operating system.

Meanwhile, for the embedded version of its desktop operating system, Microsoft is announcing the Windows XP embedded rapid development program, designed to gather technical feedback from partners ranging from Bally Gaming and Systems Inc. to National Semiconductor Corp. Getting feedback from major customers may seem par for the course, but officials emphasized that this is the first time Microsoft has taken this approach in the embedded arena.

Microsoft faces several prominent competitors in the embedded field, including handheld operating system and device companies such as Palm Inc., as well as companies that incorporate open-source operating systems, such as Wind River Systems Inc.

While Microsoft continues to gain ground, most discussions of embedded systems focus on Wind River and embedded Linux.

Wind River, for its part, recently made waves when it bought all the software assets from Berkeley Software Design Inc. BSDi is the home of the open-source community FreeBSD project. Open-source gurus say this may give Wind River a leg up on embedded Linux.