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Windows CE 2.11 launched

Microsoft releases the upgraded version of its Windows CE OS just before the launch of a new class of handhelds known as companion PCs.

Microsoft released an upgraded version of its Windows CE operating system, a few days in advance of a developers' conference that will launch a new class of handheld computers sometimes known as "companion PCs."

NEC MobilePro 750C H/PC

Formerly code-named "Jupiter," the "H/PC Pro Edition" software, based on the Windows CE 2.11 operating system, improves remote access and connectivity to corporate data while providing the familiarity of Windows, Microsoft said. In addition, the H/PC Pro Edition software enables higher resolution displays and alternative pointing devices such as a mouse, according to Microsoft.

Windows CE 2.11 presages next week's parade of hardware announcements at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. These devices will feature larger keyboards and displays and longer battery life than current handhelds. Some industry observers believe these enhanced handhelds will be user-friendly enough to begin supplanting notebook computers.

The new operating system was due next week, but the software giant decided to push its debut forward a few days.

"We've focused on making the handheld PC an excellent specific-use mobile computing tool by improving the remote email, Internet access, and synchronization back to the office," said Craig Mundie, senior vice president of the consumer platforms division at Microsoft. "Whether you're down the hall from your desk or across the country, the handheld PC Pro Edition software will keep you connected to your ever-changing, vital data."

Windows CE 2.0 launched in September 1997, adding support for 32-bit color screens as well as a greater array of screen sizes, new networking capabilities, and support for additional kinds of embedded processors. Subsequently, Sharp, NEC, Philips, and Hewlett-Packard released new products.

Accordingly, attention has centered on the upcoming handheld computers, code-named Jupiter.

In addition to improved features, these devices will initially cost around $999, Microsoft previously confirmed. But vendors have not agreed on the upgrade price for 2.11, and other questions remain about its utility for handhelds running the current version of CE.