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Microsoft unveils – wait for it – another mobile OS

'We'll call this one Windows, um, Embedded Handheld'

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Microsoft has added yet another mobile operating system to its OS smörgåsbord: Windows Embedded Handheld, to be released sometime in the next six months.

Designed for what Redmond defines as the "enterprise handheld device market", Windows Embedded Handheld — which, for convenience, we'll shorten to WiEmHa, pronounced "weem-hah" — was announced by Microsoft headman Steve Ballmer in conjunction with Motorola's Thursday launch of its ES400 Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA), a handheld that Moto marketeer Sheldon Safir touted for "the capability it has for moving workers from merely informed to truly empowered."

WiEmHa may be a new product, but Ballmer said that it's based on Windows Mobile 6.5, and "targeted specifically at the enterprise handheld device market." In the second half of next year, WiEmHa will be upgraded to a version based on Windows 7.

But why quote Redmond Steve when you can watch him enthusiastically read his teleprompter, giving WiEmHa details here? (Silverlight required.)

WiEmHa isn't designed for smartphone use. As Microsoft's announcement makes clear, it's designed for devices "like the ones you see store employees using when you’re out shopping."

The soon-to-be-born WiEmHa joins a growing family of mobile-focused Microsoft operating system: Windows Embedded CE (aka Windows Embedded Compact), Windows Embedded Compact 7 (now in Public Community Technology Preview release), Windows Mobile 6.5 (aka Windows Phone), and the upcoming Windows Phone 7 (née Windows Phone 7 Series).

Contrast, if you will, Redmond's shotgun-spray approach to the handheld market to Apple's single-shot rifle: Cupertino offers but one operating system, iOS (née iPhone OS), for the iPhone, the iPod touch, and the iPad.

Time will tell which approach will be successful in the long run, but Apple's eggs-in-one-basket strategy seems to be working well for its mobile array at the moment — and with Android on its tail, iOS on the rise, and MeeGo waiting in the wings, Microsoft's mobile lineup faces increasingly stiff competition. ®

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