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Casio launches software company

New firm CasioSoft fills a gap in developer support for the Windows CE operating system platform.

Casio, manufacturer of the Cassiopeia handheld computers, has launched a separate company dedicated to developing software for the Windows CE platform.

CasioSoft, an independent company funded by Casio of Japan, opened its doors for business yesterday and introduced three applications for the Palm and Handheld PC: CSI Project, CSI Outliner, and CSI PowerPack.

The new company is the latest development in the ongoing battle between Microsoft and Palm Computing, which is a division of 3Com, to establish dominance in the personal device market.

Windows CE is Microsoft's operating system for handheld and palm-sized computers. Devices based on the new OS are widely expected to grow in popularity over the next few years, but so far third-party software development has lagged behind competing platforms such as Palm's PalmPilot.

Palm, meanwhile, will soon find a high-profile ally in JD Technologies, the temporary name of a company that will soon announce new lines of handhelds based around the Palm operating system. JD was founded by Donna Dubinsky, former 3Com general manager of Palm Computing, and Palm inventor Jeff Hawkins. (See related story.)

"It's good for [Casio] to have a successful market for Windows CE. A rising tide raises all boats," said Brad Nemer, software product manager for CasioSoft. "The key to any successful platform is developer support."

CasioSoft's initial applications are targeted at business users, but the company is also interested in developing more consumer-friendly applications for future Windows CE platforms like Sega's DreamCast gaming console or WebTV.

"It's conceivable that there could be other products beyond what exists now," Nemer said. "We could write applications for WebTV on Windows CE even if Casio doesn't make one. We're interested in wherever the market goes-- auto PCs, phones, watches, whatever."

Developing for Windows CE is fairly simple, similar to writing applications for Windows-based PCs, Nemer said. "It is helpful not only in cost, but it's less of a learning curve and its easier for us to find people."

CasioSoft's CSI Project is a companion to Microsoft Project, and has an estimated retail price of $79.95. CSI PowerPack is a utilities suite featuring file management and multi-task utilities, priced at $59.95. CSI Outliner organizes lists and agenda items, and is priced at $39.95. All three applications are available immediately.