Windows CE .net Version 4.2 will put voice-over-IP capability in handhelds, Windows-powered smartphones and other devices, along with a set of enhancements.
These features could find their way into a variety of devices, including Windows CE-based desktop IP (Internet Protocol) phones and mobile devices that can be used for calls over a wireless Lan, said Scott Horn, director of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group.
Windows CE .net is a set of components that suppliers can use out of the box or customise to create embedded software for devices. Microsoft also uses it as the basis for its Pocket PC and Windows-powered Smartphone platforms. Third parties have developed software that lets some Windows CE-based devices be used for VoIP, but until now CE itself has not included VoIP support.
Including VoIP features in Windows CE .net should make it easier for suppliers to integrate IP voice capability in new devices, making possible new kinds of devices and even new interfaces to well-known applications such as databases.
In CE 4.2, formerly codenamed McKendric, Microsoft will provide a sample Telephony User Interface for features such as custom dialpads and a VoIP Application Interface Layer with support for SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), an industry standard for IP-based voice systems.
It will also include Enterprise Infrastructure Integration services, consisting of technology for integrating computer telephony software with enterprise applications. That will include support for the .net Compact Framework runtime environment, Active Directory and encryption technologies including IPSec (IP Security).
Several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original device manufacturers (ODMs) are developing VoIP devices using Windows CE .net. These include Casio, Hitachi, Samsung and Symbol.
Symbol is developing a device for use in warehouses which combines barcode scanning features with "walkie-talkie" capability over a wireless Lan, he said.
Component makers - including Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, ARM, Broadcom and Texas Instruments - are optimising CPUs and reference boards for VoIP devices that will run the new operating system.
Although Windows CE .Net 4.2 will ship with SIP support, vendors that want a VoIP device to work with another protocol can build it in, Horn said.
Windows CE 4.2 is in beta testing now and due for release in the first half of this year. Also in beta is Greenwich, Microsoft software for real-time communications. Combined with Greenwich and Windows Server 2003, CE 4.2 could be used to build a variety of applications for VoIP, instant messaging and presence-based activities that tap into knowledge of a user's real-time availability.