Microsoft is to expand licensing of its embedded Windows CE 5.0 source code to help mobile device manufacturers improve OS functionality and business applications.
The updated CE platform will also help Microsoft gain a greater share of the Voice over IP (VoIP) industry, enabling it to compete with telecoms operators, according to experts.
Building on its shared source initiative, Microsoft claimed it will give device makers "significant access" to more than 2.5 million lines of Windows CE source code, including its operating system kernel, graphical user interfaces, file systems, device drivers and web servers.
"Commercially it will lead to improvements at the operating system level," said Karen Carter, group product manager for mobile and embedded devices at Microsoft.
"It means that they can tweak the code to make more creative applications and ship them."
The company will also allow licensees to keep derivative code, meaning that they do not have to share modifications with Microsoft, partners or competitors.
And flexible licensing models will mean that developers do not have to pay fees until products ship to customers.
"Opening up the CE source code is really important as a means of attracting more hardware vendors and for building better products," said Jessica Figueras, wireless software research director at analyst Ovum.
Figueras added that Microsoft's previous reluctance to work more closely with smartphone and mobile manufacturers had led to technological glitches in the first CE-based devices available on the market and had also slowed down adoption of the operating system.
But greater access to source code will help device manufacturers build in further VoIP functionality, including multi-party audio conferencing and integration with Exchange Server, she said.
"There are a lot of features built into CE to enable VoIP," agreed Carter.
Nadahl Shocair, chief executive of telephone equipment manufacturer DeTeWe, said: "The phone operators are under threat from the IP world.
"If Microsoft is opening up the CE environment then it will allow firms to wrap other business functions around VoIP, like customer relationship management and salesforce automation."
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