Microsoft and MIPS form Windows CE alliance

A number of chip manufacturers will be part of an alliance announced Wednesday by Microsoft Corp. and MIPS Technologies Inc. to design digital media devices based on Windows CE .Net and the MIPS processor core, the companies said.

The companies are looking at designs for digital televisions, digital set-top boxes and other consumer entertainment devices featuring the operating system/processor core combination, said Kevin Meyer, vice president of marketing for MIPS, based in Mountain View, California.

MIPS designs RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processor cores for embedded and handheld devices that are licensed by other chipmakers, who put the finishing touches on the processor and manufacture it in bulk, Meyer said. MIPS processor cores can be found in devices such as Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s Playstation2, digital set-top boxes from Motorola Inc., and routers from Cisco Systems Inc., according to MIPS' Web site.

Windows CE .Net runs on handheld and embedded devices, and is also licensed to other companies to use portions of the source code as required for their devices. Microsoft licensed Windows CE .Net internally in order to create its Pocket PC operating system for handheld devices.

As part of the alliance, Microsoft will work to optimize Windows CE .Net for the MIPS processor core, said Scott Horn, director of marketing for the embedded and appliance platforms group at Microsoft.

Because Windows CE .Net is shipped as a code base with multiple images depending on how licensees want to use the operating system, it can be optimized for multiple processor cores, Horn said.

Several manufacturers of processors based on another core design from Arm Ltd. have announced they are working with Microsoft to design optimized versions of Windows CE .Net for their products, including Motorola and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

"We continue to work with Arm and other partners, this is just a deepening of a 10-year relationship with MIPS. Different architectures are used in different spaces, and we're focused here on digital entertainment devices," Horn said.

MIPS has sent engineers to the Redmond, Washington, headquarters of Microsoft to work on optimizing the MIPS core with the operating system, Meyer said.

The members of the alliance include ADMtek Inc., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., ATI Technologies Inc., Broadcom Corp., Marvell Technology Group Ltd., NEC Electronics Corp., PMC-Sierra Inc., Texas Instruments Inc., and Toshiba Corp. The announcement kicks off the MIPS and Microsoft Executive Summit in Redmond Wednesday, where MIPS licensees will discuss future MIPS and Windows CE .Net road maps, Horn said.

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