Microsoft has cancelled Mobile and Embedded DevCon, its annual conference for developers of mobile and embedded devices and applications. Would-be attendees have are being steered towards two alternative shows - one run by the software vendor, the other by a third party.

In previous years, the Mobile and Embedded DevCon conference has been the most important event for Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices division. Around 8,500 people attended the MEDC last year, either at the main conference in the US or at overseas versions of the show.

This year's US conference was scheduled for May in Las Vegas. But Microsoft sent an email to previous attendees this month notifying them of the cancelation, according to multiple blog postings by Microsoft employees.

Mike Hall, a technical product manager at Microsoft, posted the text of the letter on the company's Windows Embedded Blog last Friday. And in a January 8 posting on his MSDN blog, Frank Prengel, an embedded developer evangelist at Microsoft Germany, wrote that the decision to cancel the MEDC "is a bit sad". But, he added, "it only makes sense since mobile and embedded development is becoming more mainstream and thus should be covered at the same events as other technologies."

According to the two blog postings, Microsoft will shift its education activities for mobile and embedded developers to the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley, which is due to be held in April in San Jose, and to the software vendor's own Tech-Ed US 2008 conference in Orlando.

A version of the Tech-Ed conference for developers is scheduled to start June 3, while a version for IT pros will follow the next week - the first time that Microsoft has split the massive conference into two separate events.

Microsoft's letter about the cancelation of the MEDC said that there will be Windows Embedded tracks at both Tech-Ed and the Embedded Systems Conference. In addition, the Tech-Ed conference will include content related to the company's Windows Mobile technology.

MEDC attendees primarily have been developers writing applications for Microsoft operating system platforms such as Windows Mobile, Windows CE, Windows Embedded, Windows Embedded for Point of Sale (WEPOS), Windows XP Embedded and Robotics Studio. The latter technology is a Windows-based environment for creating robotics applications.

Microsoft dominates markets such as retail, where computerized cash registers and other point-of-sale devices running WEPOS or Windows XP Embedded have a commanding market share lead. Meanwhile, at this month's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates predicted that 20 million Windows Mobile devices will ship this year, as a group outselling Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices.

However, Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6 platform still lags behind the Symbian OS from Symbian on a global basis. And some market watchers predict that the iPhone will emerge as the top-selling smartphone by year's end, at least in North America.