Version 4.1 marks the first upgrade to the Windows CE .net operating system, which Microsoft released early in January.
Windows CE .net is used in personal digital assistants, mobile phones and other small-footprint devices by vendors such as Hitachi, NEC Infrontia, Samsung Information Systems America and ViewSonic.
The new version's support for IPv6 will be important over time, according to Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC. Gillen noted that devices with embedded operating systems, such as Windows CE, tend to get used for long periods, so the support for IPv6 will gain significance going forward. Gillen added that Microsoft offers compatibility between IPv6 and IPv4.
The main improvement that IPv6 makes over IPv4 is increasing the address space from 32bits to 128bits, alleviating the potential shortage of network addresses and, therefore, paving the way for the future growth of the Internet.
Microsoft collaborated on the IPv6 implementation with Lancaster University, UK. Andrew Scott, a senior lecturer at the university, said his group was looking for a "good platform" for research in the area of mobile devices and viewed IPv6 as a "key requirement for future Internet clients".
Another enhancement in the new version of Windows CE .net is an updated .net Compact Framework beta that can help developers build XML-based Web services applications for small devices.
The new version also includes support for the 5.0 version of Microsoft's speech application programming interface, opening the door for developers to write improved applications that enable speech recognition and text-to-speech conversion.
Device makers will also find file viewers that enable end users to view document types such as Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
The Version 4.1 update to Windows CE .net is available from Windows Embedded distribution partners.