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Microsoft gives more power to the small

The software giant announces a new version of its Windows CE .Net operating system, which powers devices ranging from handheld computers to gas pumps.

Microsoft is putting a little more .Net in its Windows CE .Net.

The software giant on Tuesday announced a new version of its Windows CE .Net operating system, adding broader support for its .Net services from within Windows CE, a slimmed down version of Windows used to power devices ranging from handheld computers to gas pumps.

In January, Bill Gates introduced the initial version of Windows CE .Net, which was also known by its code name, Talisker. At the time, Microsoft added support for a couple of services, such as instant messaging and Passport authentication.

The new Windows CE .Net version 4.1 also adds support for IPv6, the latest version of the Internet protocol as well as built-in support for speech recognition. In addition, devices running the new operating system will also be able to view documents in various PC formats, including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, as well as GIF, BMP and JPG graphics formats.

The operating system also performs better in several areas, Microsoft said. Web browsing is up to 15 percent faster than the prior version of CE .Net, while Windows Media Player performance has improved 20 percent.

About a dozen devices from major product makers already use the original version of Windows CE .Net, with hundreds more products being designed, said Todd Warren, general manager of Microsoft's Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group.

"We've experienced strong momentum in the embedded community and we expect this to continue," he said. Though device makers decide when the new OS will show up in products, Warren added, it typically takes at least six months.

Microsoft said the update is available now. Chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices and Samsung Semiconductor pledged their support for the new operating system. NEC also said it plans to use the operating system in a new wireless handheld.