Microsoft has announced that it will change the name of its in-vehicle software platform to “Windows(R) Automotive” from “Windows CE for Automotive.” Microsoft says this name change will mark the introduction of the first Microsoft(R) .NET-connected, voice-enabled software for building next-generation in-vehicle devices.

“The first automotive breakthroughs were mechanical and electric, then electronic,” said Dick Brass , vice president of technology development and charged with the oversight of automotive efforts at Microsoft. “The next great wave of vehicular improvement will be fueled by software. We stand at the dawn of the software vehicle.”

Available to automakers, suppliers and developers in the first half of next year, Windows Automotive, built on the Windows CE operating system, is the first Microsoft telematics software platform designed exclusively for the automotive market to include the .NET Compact Framework. Microsoft says this technology will enable the industry to give drivers and passengers seamless access to a wide range of Web services as well as smooth functionality among all Windows Powered devices.

The platform will have native support for voice-enabled Bluetooth(TM) technology, a short-range wireless technology that enables devices to interconnect without cables or wires.

“As the telematics industry evolves, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to add value for both automakers and consumers,” Brass said. “Microsoft has the assets required to deliver the telematics technology infrastructure, products and services that will enable the automotive industry to focus on product differentiation, customer intimacy and new revenue streams, and most important, create a telematics solution that drivers and passengers will demand in their cars.”