The latest release of Microsoft's mobile OS, Windows CE, will make devices more secure, reliable and better at handling multimedia files, Microsoft has claimed.

Windows CE 5.0 - out in beta - will bring improvements for developers by offering improved hardware support and a unified development environment, Microsoft added in a statement.

A beta version will be made available on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) on Thursday, Microsoft said. The final version of the operating system is due mid-year.

Windows CE 5.0 will take over from Windows CE 4.2, released last year. The OS is used in a variety of devices including set-top boxes, wireless routers and wireless displays. It is also the basis of Microsoft's Windows Mobile Software used in Pocket PCs and smart phones.

Key features in the new release will be an integrated development environment, allowing developers to work in a graphical environment and use a command line interface from the same tool, Microsoft said. Additionally, increased hardware support, with more than 50 drivers, should make life easier for developers, the company said.

The release also has a security and reliability focus (in keeping with the new Microsoft approach) with all components set to the highest security level by default, the company said. Also new is the addition of error reporting, which will allow makers of devices that connect to the Internet to get reports of problems with their products.

To support more multi-media devices, CE 5.0 includes support for Direct3D, a programming and graphics model based on DirectX, part of desktop Windows. The technology will be useful for new devices such as Portable Media Centers, a class of Windows CE-based products that Microsoft hardware partners are expected to ship later this year.