Latest Windows Embedded CE puts focus on Silverlight

It will also support the multi-touch and gesture features coming in Windows 7

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday said that the latest release of its Windows Embedded CE operating system for handheld devices and gadgets will come with a new development framework that puts the Silverlight multimedia player at the center.

The new Platform Builder for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 is based on Microsoft's Visual Studio programming software, and is meant to help developers create rich user interfaces on Silverlight that can be easily ported to other embedded versions of Windows, David Wurster, senior product manager on the Windows Embedded consumer team, said in an interview last week.

Windows Embedded CE will also support touch and gesture features similar to those coming in Windows 7.

Silverlight for Windows Embedded CE, officially known as Embedded Compact, will run independent of a Web browser, which the desktop PC version requires, said Wurster.

Available for devices based on x86, ARM or MIPS processors, Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 will support Silverlight 2.0, which was released a year ago.

Microsoft touts Silverlight on the desktop for its high-def video support, but Wurster said that isn't the emphasis here. Instead, the focus is on Silverlight's potential to help developers write and port their apps faster.

He declined to weigh in on how Silverlight's performance on Windows Embedded CE compares to Adobe Systems Inc.'s Flash player. "You can't really compare it directly, as it depends too much on the hardware layer," Wurster said.

Windows Embedded CE is developed separately from the desktop and server versions of Windows, though it borrows features from them. It can be easily broken down into component parts, allowing it to be installed sans features such as a Web browser or media player, making it suitable for devices with little RAM or storage.

Microsoft is starting to aim Windows Embedded CE at smartbooks -- netbook-like devices using ARM chips that are expected to start arriving this Christmas.

Microsoft also announced the availability of the next version of Windows Embedded Enterprise. This is basically the full version of Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Professional offered under a special license for makers of non-PC hardware -- typically ATMs, kiosks and digital signs, according to Ashwin Kulkarni, senior product manager for the Windows Embedded team.

Using Windows 7 was not a surprise. Microsoft earlier this month released a preview of Windows Embedded Standard 2011 that is based on Windows 7.

Microsoft had hinted as early as April 2008 that it would use Windows 7, rather than Vista, for Embedded Standard.

Finally, Microsoft announced the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 for Embedded Systems. As the name implies, it is merely Windows Server 2008 R2 offered under a special license for OEMs.

Microsoft made the announcements during the Embedded Systems Conference going on in Boston this week.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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