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Micro Framework-WPF/E Debut

Microsoft recently released one software developer kit (SDK) aimed at strengthening its mobile devices message, and just shipped a preview version of a second component of its strategy.

Microsoft recently released one software developer kit (SDK) aimed at strengthening its mobile devices message, and just shipped a preview version of a second component of its strategy.

In late February, the company shipped the .NET Micro Framework SDK. The SDK integrates with Visual Studio 2005, enabling developers to write applications for Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) devices using C# in a managed code environment, according to company officials and Microsoft documents.

The .NET Micro Framework grew out of Microsoft's SPOT initiative, which was designed to support very small, embedded devices that don't have the resources to run a more fully functioned system such as Windows Mobile.

The Micro Framework also provides extensible hardware emulation and real-time debugging capabilities, including support for devices built on the ARM7 and ARM9 microprocessors.

Embedded Solutions
SPOT devices that have debuted so far include watches, weather stations and Global Positioning System (GPS) units, though Microsoft sees far more uses for small, embedded systems, such as in robotics applications.

For instance, Collin Miller, director of the .NET Micro Framework, cites the example of a robotics company that might use sensors as SPOT devices, or a field service application that links to a GPS unit.

"The idea is to make a more complete embedded solution for our partners," Miller says.

The .NET Micro Framework isn't the same as Microsoft's .NET Compact Framework. The Compact edition is designed to support much more powerful devices, such as wireless phones running Windows Mobile.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also shipped a community technology preview (CTP) of its Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E) platform in February and is readying a final release for the end of June.

WPF/E provides a cross-platform browser plug-in for delivering media, animation and video content based on Windows Media.

WPF/E employs a subset of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML)-based technology at the heart of the Vista and .NET 3.0 Framework user interface development.

New to the February CTP are keyboard input, mouse-cursor support, MP3 audio handling and full-screen mode display. The latest preview also features improved JavaScript APIs and better performance.

Cross-Platform Support
WPF/E runs on both Mac and Windows, with support for Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari Web browsers. Microsoft plans to extend WPF/E compatibility to mobile devices supporting the .NET Compact Framework in the second half of 2007.

WPF/E is not necessary at the SPOT-device level. That's partly because the .NET Micro Framework already uses a subset of WPF/E as the object model for displays.

"We want to break down the barrier between embedded devices and the rest of the world," Miller says.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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