December 9, 1996 3:30 PM ET

Windows CE gains added CPU support
By Mark Moore

  The Windows CE platform will soon be powered by a new range of CPUs, including X86-, Advanced RISC Machine- and PowerPC-based processors.

Microsoft Corp. announced today it is working with Intel Corp., Motorola Inc., Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. and its partners Digital Equipment Corp. and Cirrus Logic Inc. to port their respective microprocessors to the Windows CE (consumer electronics) small kernel operating system, according to Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash.

For several months, Microsoft and Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., have been working on porting a derivative of the Intel 486 processor, called the Ultra Low Power Intel 486SX, to Windows CE. That port is expected to be completed by next month, said officials at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.

Microsoft and Intel plan to port Pentium processors over to the Windows CE platform as well, although officials said there is currently no timetable for that move.

Digital, meanwhile, is in the process of developing an enhanced version of its StrongARM SA-110 RISC processor that will be tailored for handheld PCs that run Windows CE. The enhanced version will provide more efficient memory management capabilities, thus boosting performance over the current StrongARM SA-110 chip, according to Digital officials in Maynard, Mass.

Limited volume of the Windows CE-based version of the StrongARM SA-110 chip will be available next fall; however, significant volume is not expected until next December. The processor is expected to be priced starting at $29 per chip in quantities of 10,000, Digital officials said.

For its part, Cirrus Logic is porting a version of its ARM-based processor to Windows CE. According to Cirrus Logic officials in Fremont, Calif., the port will be completed by next year.

In addition, Microsoft officials revealed that the company is working with Motorola, of Schaumburg, Ill., in an effort to support the PowerPC processor. However, Microsoft officials declined to comment on when the PowerPC port would be completed.

Microsoft officials attributed the moves to add support for X86-based, ARM-based and PowerPC-based processors as a way for hardware OEMs to differentiate their handheld PCs and other devices based on Windows CE.

The new processors join Hitachi Ltd.'s SH-3, NEC Electronics Inc.'s VR4101 and Philips Semiconductors' TwoChipPIC (the PR31500 and the UCB1100) processors running Windows CE.

Overall, seven hardware manufacturers are developing Windows CE-based handheld PCs. Casio Computer Co., Compaq Computer Corp. and NEC Corp. are shipping their HPCs now, and Hitachi Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Philips Consumer Electronics Co. are expected to ship devices for the OS by the first half of 1997.

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