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Microsoft looks to play more with Sega's Dreamcast

One week after its noticeable absence from Sega's Dreamcast launch, Microsoft announces the availability of software for developers that should speed the creation of Windows CE-based games.

One week after its noticeable absence from Sega's Dreamcast launch, Microsoft today announced the availability of software for developers that should speed the creation of Windows CE-based games.

Microsoft said it is working on its Windows CE toolkit 2.0--a suite of software programs designed to spur development of Dreamcast games and applications. Although Microsoft and Sega announced a year ago that the Dreamcast game console would run Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, today's announcement is the only outward sign that the two companies have been working together at all.

That's because of the 18 game titles unveiled at the Dreamcast launch, none used Windows CE software, and Microsoft was a no-show at the Sega launch. Even Microsoft's own WebTV group has run into troubles in its ongoing efforts to move over to Windows CE.

Microsoft's new development software may help get game developers back on track in bringing Windows CE-based games to Dreamcast. The toolkit is designed to simplify title development and conversions from other system platforms, Microsoft said. The toolkit also provides improved graphics performance and other multimedia effects.

The suite provides faster data transfer between the development hardware and the Dreamcast console, while technology borrowed from Web page development tools aids in the creation of customized games.

Also, for the first time the toolkit software includes controls for linking to Web content displayed in an Internet Explorer browser. This means game developers can add certain online functions, such as posting high scores--something which Sega-based software developers could already do using a browser from PlanetWeb.

"Our goal is to create real competitive advantages for game developers by providing a familiar environment optimized for the hardware capabilities of Sega Dreamcast," said Chris Philips, director of business development at Microsoft, in a statement.

Acclaim Entertainment, Infogrames Entertainment, Kalisto Entertainment, Konami, Majesco, and Sega are developing games for the Dreamcast using Windows CE, Microsoft said.

Windows CE is a scaled-down version of the desktop computer version of Microsoft's Windows, which is helpful for game and application developers who are already familiar with the desktop operating system, according to Microsoft.

Although Dreamcast was launched last week, the toolkit will not be available until early October, Microsoft said.

Priced at $199, Sega's Dreamcast console has been touted as one of the first products to realize the much-hyped vision of convergence between television and computers. The device ships with a Web browser on a disc that allows gamers to access the Net from their television.