Microsoft unwraps second beta of 'Talisker'

Microsoft Corp. released the next test version of its Windows CE operating system Monday, offering a broad group of developers the tools and software needed to build applications for computing devices ranging from cell phones to "smart" kitchen appliances.

Codenamed "Talisker," the next version of Windows CE is a less bulky version of Microsoft's Windows operating system for PCs, servers and workstations. Talisker is built to run on small computing devices and other machines and appliances that have a computer component with an embedded operating system.

Windows CE 3.0, the current version of the operating system, is used in devices from gas pumps to Microsoft's Pocket PC handheld computer. The embedded operating system can be customized according to the device it runs on.

Microsoft said it is releasing the second beta version of Talisker through a series of early developer programs that will allow developers to build and test applications and services intended to run on this range of computing devices. The first beta version was released in April to about 300 developers. "Talisker" is available through a free download through the Emulation Edition Preview program. Developers can download Talisker onto a workstation running Windows 2000 Professional -- or the soon-to-be-released Windows XP Professional -- to build and test applications with a set of tools that emulate the operating system as it would appear on a mobile device.

Microsoft is also selling copies of Talisker on CD or DVD for the cost of delivery. That includes tools and software for developers to build applications for each of the devices that will run Talisker.

The planned release of Talisker has already attracted industry interest, Microsoft said. Companies building and testing early applications for Talisker include Siemens AG, which is testing the software for use on its Web pad, and Wyse Technology Inc., which is building a thin client based on Talisker. A third company, Intermec Technologies Corp., is using the beta version of Talisker to build a data terminal, Microsoft said.

Previous to this latest beta release, Microsoft has stepped up its efforts to lure developers to use the operating system. In June 2000, Microsoft began giving developers access to the Windows CE 3.0 source code. Last month, the company opened up the operating system for wider use through its shared source license. Microsoft also has an embedded operating system based on the Windows NT 4.0 kernel and one in development based on Windows XP. The more advanced Windows XP embedded operating system will run such devices as the set-top box.

In the next few years, as Microsoft continues its efforts to create an environment for pervasive computing through its .Net initiative, Windows CE will be the foundation for supporting Microsoft's Web services strategy on mobile devices and Internet appliances. Microsoft plans to deliver software and services across the Internet to a range of computing devices.

Taking advantage of that strategy, current and new versions of Windows CE will be used in technology still under development such as Microsoft's "Stinger" smart phone and the AutoPC -- a computer terminal installed in a car dashboard. The operating system will also run future devices envisioned for a wired world such as refrigerators and other home appliances.

The final release of Talisker is due out before the end of the calendar year, Microsoft said.

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