With Windows CE just over a year old, Microsoft Corp has begun to make noises about using the operating system in a broader range of devices than the hand held systems on which it has concentrated its efforts so far (CI No 3,257). Now Phoenix Technologies Inc wants to push things ahead faster, and is providing the software foundations needed to get CE up and running on a wider choice of Intel x86-based and other chip platforms than Microsoft is offering, such as embedded systems, consumer and industrial devices and set-top boxes. Phoenix has launched its hardware abstraction layer, PicoPAL/CE, which isolates the operating system from the underlying chip, providing a consistent interface, regardless of hardware. As a bonus, related SoftPower technology helps extend battery life with micro-control of the platform’s power consumption. And Phoenix has also launched PicoStor/CE, which enables CE systems to use linear Flash storage in the form of arrays, PC cards and miniature cards as non-volatile memory. NEC Semiconductors Inc and Taiwanese company LiteOn are two of the earliest takers for the products. NEC Semiconductor is to use PicoPAL/CE and SoftPower on its MIPS Vr41xx series of processors for CE-based systems ranging from mobile devices to AC powered devices, and the Taiwanese power and light conglomerate Lite-On Group will also use it for an unspecified new wave of Windows CE-based designs. At Comdex in two weeks time, Advanced Micro Devices Inc will be demonstrating its new AMD SC 400 Elan microcontroller (CI No 3,083) using PicoPAL/CE. Phoenix, which is also selling a range of development tools, says there are other platforms, mostly in the x86-compatible market it knows best, in the pipeline. It says the business generated by CE, an area where competitors such as Award Software Inc have yet to enter, could be very big. Phoenix’s traditional BIOS business still accounts for the majority of the company’s $82m revenues, however. With the recent addition of both Intel Corp and Compaq Computer Corp to its customer list, Phoenix now delivers BIOS to just about all the high profile PC companies, excluding IBM Corp, which uses technologies it developed in conjunction with Phoenix.
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