Las Vegas, NM--Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Development Conference, which ends here today, saw the presentation of a strategy for extending the company's .NET vision to non-PC devices. The company also announced the timeline for future releases of its Windows CE and embedded NT OSs, and refuted a Wall Street Journal article that claimed Microsoft is not among the top-20 embedded system suppliers.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, and Bill Veghte, Microsoft vice president for embedded and appliance platforms, both focussed on smart devices as the way to provide mobile access to corporate data "at the edge of the network". These devices will be based on either the next version of Windows CE (code-named "Talisker" and due for release in late 2001 or early 2002) or an embedded version of Windows XP (formerly code-named "Whistler" and due for release this fall, with the embedded version following the desktop version by 90 days). Smart devices will provide improved connectivity to both corporate networks and the Internet, using various new interfaces and programming models.

A live demo in front of 1000+ developers used Microsoft's Platform Builder and Visual Studio products to build a simulated airline gate check-in application running wirelessly against a SQL Server 2000 back-end. The application ran on a development platform that simulated a dedicated piece of hardware (perhaps an optical scanner) located at the airport gate. Microsoft demonstrated the entire process, including selecting device-specific modules, creating a software development kit (SDK), and developing the necessary application. The resulting device and application was capable of processing airline tickets either online or offline (in the latter case, the device would replicate a local database against the SQL Server back-end on demand). Other demonstrations included CyberBank's Windows CE-based PC e-Phone, which combines a Pocket PC and cell phone; and StorLogic's network-attached storage device, based on embedded NT.

To speed acceptance of its new embedded OSs and tools, Microsoft is taking the unprecedented step of licensing its OS source code to OEMs for modification as necessary to support specific devices--and allowing the OEMs, in turn, to repackage the resulting platform-specific OSs into proprietary development kits. Responding to requests for an easy and inexpensive way to get prototype code into the hands of developers quickly, Microsoft is making time-bombed evaluation versions available for order from its Web site for a fulfillment cost as low as $14.95.

Responding to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article claiming--among other things--that Microsoft isn't among the top embedded development suppliers, Veghte said, "The Journal didn't get its' facts right. I can't give you specific numbers--but I watch Wind River \[one of the leading embedded system companies\] very carefully. I believe my revenue numbers are better than theirs--and I know I'm growing faster than they are."

Stay tuned. We'll have more news from the conference in next Thursday's Wireless & Mobile UPDATE email newsletter and in an upcoming Special Edition of Wireless & Mobile UPDATE on February 22.