Microsoft is gearing up for a major assault on the growing enterprise handheld devices market.
The company has announced a new software platform, called Windows Embedded Handheld, that will be introduced to target specialist line-of-business applications with more specific functionality than that offered by consumer devices.
The announcement follows the launch of version 7 of Windows Embedded CE at the beginning of this month. It comes hot on the heels of Redmond's latest attempts to gain greater consumer market share with the new Windows Mobile 7 operating system expected later this year.
The new Embedded Handheld brand was unveiled at a launch event for the new platform's flagship Motorola ES400 enterprise digital assistant by Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who said it would be accompanied by significant new investment.
Touting increased security and management capabilities by virtue of integration with Windows-based PCs, servers and enterprise services, Ballmer said the new brand would give customers "confidence that investments in handheld enterprise devices and line-of-business applications will be protected over time by an extended support lifecycle".
The first release under the brand is scheduled for sometime before the end of this year, building on the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform and aimed at attracting original equipment manufacturers and enterprise customers.
It will also aim to extend the use of Microsoft developer tools for porting line-of-business applications onto rugged handsets and other mobile devices, often preferred for use in enterprise environments like retail, healthcare and manufacturing.
Support for developer tools on the platform will include Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Forms.
An updated Windows Embedded Handheld platform based on Windows Embedded Compact 7 technologies will be released in the second half of 2011 to address networked enterprise device needs.
In addition, a migration path for adding rich user interfaces and natural input will be made available to a new application platform based on Microsoft Silverlight and Microsoft XNA, as well as Visual Studio 2010, with the Windows Embedded Handheld release in 2011.
VDC Research recently estimated that enterprise handheld device shipments would exceed 4.3 million by 2014. The Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile platforms accounted for 87 per cent of 2009 shipments, according to the analyst firm.
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