Microsoft unveils Windows CE with VoIP

Microsoft will unveil enhancements to the VoIP capabilities of Windows CE in the upcoming version 5.0.

Microsoft will unveil enhancements to the VoIP capabilities of Windows CE in the upcoming version 5.0.

The operating system forms the basis of Microsoft's platforms for embedded, automotive and mobile computing.

A lot of suppliers want to add VoIP as an application to wireless handhelds and other devices, said John Starkweather, a product manager in Microsoft's Embedded Devices Group.

In the latest version of Windows CE, Microsoft has added multiparty audioconferencing capability, unified messaging and integration on Exchange Server with calendar and contact searching features. They complement what has been a simpler set of telephony features built in to CE 4.2.

However, most customers do not adopt CE primarily for its features because they use it as a platform to build their own software, Starkweather said.

Most of the improvements are intended to help suppliers speed up their development and get their products to market more quickly, he said. Microsoft also offers integration with existing infrastructure, such as Windows Server software.

Microsoft sees VoIP as one application which could run on different devices, and be offered by service providers to their customers.

In order to make money from voice, service providers and software and hardware makers want to add capabilities on top of it, such as videoconferencing and integration with customer relationship management software, Starkweather said.

Microsoft's manufacturer partners include electronics maker LG Electronics, Japan's NEC Infrontia and China's ZTE.

Microsoft is also set to introduce system integrator partners, including Datacraft Asia, Net2Com and BSquare, which will use the platform to deploy systems for companies and service providers.

Microsoft will also announce a service provider partner, Vonage Holdings, which is looking to offer its customers "softphone" software based on CE 5.0 to install on devices such as Wi-Fi PDAs which will let them make VoIP calls.

Inter-tel, which already sells IP office phones based on CE 4.2, sees CE 5.0 as a more complete phone platform, said Jes Nielsen, a technical lead at the company which is working on future phones and demonstrated the exisiting model at VON.

With the latest OS, Inter-tel may be able to run the whole phone on CE on a single processor, he said.

Inter-tel's CE 4.2 phone, called the Model 8690, has one processor to run CE functions and another for higher level telephony features.

The addition of support for features such as multiple-party audioconferencing should make Windows CE's capabilities more comprehensive.

Inter-tel aims to get its next-generation of phones on the market in the first quarter of next year, which may include voice recognition for voice-operated control of the phone and come in a variety of different configurations at different prices. The 8690 has a list price of $1,495.

Microsoft is expected to make CE 5.0 available between June and August.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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