Gates to announce .Net Compact Framework

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on Wednesday will announce the worldwide launch of .Net Compact Framework, a tool that lets developers bring Microsoft's .Net technology to mobile devices, according to a company executive.

The framework will let developers extend the capabilities of .Net, such as Web services support, to mobile devices, said David Rasmussen, lead product manager for .Net Mobility Developer Platform at Microsoft. Rasmussen was speaking in an interview before Gates' opening keynote at the Microsoft Mobile Developer Conference, being held alongside the CTIA Wireless trade show. The .Net Framework and .Net Compact Framework provide a consistent development model through a single tool set, Visual Studio .Net, so developers can easily extend PC applications to mobile devices, he said.

The new tool will support development of software for any device that runs Windows CE version 4.1 and later. That includes devices based on the Pocket PC 2000, Pocket PC 2002 and Pocket PC Phone Edition reference platforms. To start with, it won't support Microsoft's Smartphone 2002 platform because the latest version of that was locked in before .Net Compact Framework was finished, he said. The next version will support that platform, he said.

Developers will be able to download .Net Compact Framework beginning Thursday. It will be included in the Visual Studio .Net 2003 development tool, which is set for general availability April 24, Rasmussen said. Until then, developers can deploy applications based on .Net Compact Framework by using the beta version of Visual Studio .Net 2003.

To promote the new framework, Microsoft will give away the ViewSonic Corp. V37 Pocket PC to the first 25,000 qualified Visual Studio customers. The V37, introduced Wednesday, is a PDA (personal digital assistant) with a 3.5-inch display, a 400MHz Intel Corp. XScale processor, 64MB of RAM and 64MB of ROM. It will include the .Net Compact Framework in ROM. Information about the promotion will be available at http://www.msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/getpocketpc.

Bringing .Net capabilities to mobile devices will allow enterprises and others to get those devices involved in Web services, Rasmussen said. For example, it could enable development of machine-to-machine messaging via SMS (Short Message Service). A handheld device could be set up to accept certain kinds of SMS messages on behalf of the user, such as new price lists for traveling sales representatives. Then a server could push that information out via a mobile wireless network and update the device automatically without the salesperson needing to acknowledge or accept the SMS, he said.

Also Wednesday, Gates will discuss components that partners will make available for application development with the new framework. Among them will be libraries of components for user interface controls and libraries from Hewlett-Packard Co. for printing documents from mobile devices. The HP libraries will allow development of software for users to print a document directly on an HP printer or send it to an HP print server for printing on any brand of printer, Rasmussen said.

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Stephen Lawson

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