Microsoft has unwrapped a handful of initiatives designed to promote the use of its operating systems in embedded devices such as Web-enabled cell phones, handheld computers and industrial equipment.

The initiatives include new software components to extend the functionality of Windows CE, a slimmed-down version of Microsoft's desktop operating system, along with programs designed to make it easier for companies who manufacture embedded equipment to use Microsoft's software.

The announcements were made at Embedded Systems Conference 2000, a trade show for developers that kicked off yesterday in San Jose, California.

Microsoft representatives were on hand to demonstrate the software it would like manufacturers to use, including embedded versions of Windows CE and Windows NT and their respective development tools.

In the way of new software, Microsoft released an "add-on pack" for Windows CE 3.0 that includes additional software components aimed at extending the capabilities of the operating system in areas such as communications and networking.

Specifically, the add-on pack includes components that should allow devices to make greater use of XML (extensible markup language), an emerging programming language that is also an important part of Microsoft's wide-ranging .Net initiative.

Through .Net, Microsoft aims to provide a range of software and services that will enable businesses to offer new types of services over the Internet.

In Microsoft's vision, many of those services would be accessed from portable devices, so it makes sense for the company to extend XML support to its handheld software platform.