The update, to be known as Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, is based on a Windows CE .Net core, but adds a variety of improvements, according to a source familiar with the situation. The new OS is expected to improve support for larger, VGA screens and screen rotation, among other features, according to developer comments posted in a Microsoft forum and cited by handheld enthusiast site PocketPCTools.
Microsoft declined to comment on any changes to the OS.
Hewlett-Packard is among the hardware makers expected to support the revamp with new products, according to a source familiar with the company's plans. Toshiba is not expected to have any new models immediately, but will allow current customers to upgrade to the new OS for free, the Japanese company said.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese manufacturer Asus this week a Windows 2003-based handheld with a VGA screen at the CeBit trade show in Germany. It was not immediately clear whether that device is running the new operating system.
Microsoftof Windows Mobile 2003 last July. The software is used in handhelds by companies including Dell, HP, Toshiba and ViewSonic as well as in smart phones from Motorola and others.
Mobile software developers, who would work with any update to the operating system, are set to gather in San Francisco next week for a Microsoft conference. Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to give a keynote speech at the conference on Wednesday.
Separately, NEC plans to announce next week an update to its MobilePro line of clamshell-style handhelds. The 900c will use the Windows CE .Net 4.1 operating system, an upgrade from the Windows CE 3.0 OS used in prior versions of the MobilePro.
While many Microsoft-based handhelds use Windows Mobile, Microsoft has ain which it also licenses the Windows CE core to hardware makers that want more flexibility to customize the devices.