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|Windows Embedded Roadmap Updated for Windows 8|
|Monday, 04 February 2013|
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A series of announcements beginning in Nov. 2012 and continuing in early 2013 provide an evolving roadmap for the Windows Embedded Business's embedded OSs and platforms. Organizations are using these embedded products to build devices from simple kiosks and point-of-sale terminals to industrial machines and medical monitors to capture key operational and transactional data for business decision makers. These organizations and the partners who serve them should review the new roadmap, which signals improvements and changes to both the traditional embedded OSs and platforms.
Targeting Devices for Intelligent Systems
The Windows, the Windows Phone, and the Windows Embedded businesses all produce OSs that share common technologies, such as the OS kernel. The products of the Windows and the Windows Phone businesses are general purpose OSs used by OEMs and device manufacturers to produce standard devices such as laptops, tablets, and phones that target a large number of enterprises and consumers. The Windows Embedded Business, in contrast, delivers embeddable OS products for OEMs and device manufacturers to build highly specialized devices that perform business-specific processes or tasks such as welding automobile chassis on a factory floor, monitoring patient health in a hospital, or managing sales transactions via point-of-sale terminals or kiosks.
These Windows Embedded business products not only allow the creation of highly specialized devices, but the devices should easily fit into an organization's larger business systems to create "intelligent systems," or an "Internet of Things." In the Windows Embedded Business's parlance, intelligent systems "enable data to flow across an enterprise infrastructure, spanning the devices where valuable data is gathered from employees or customers, to the back-end systems where data can be translated into insights and action." Such intelligent systems based on the Windows Embedded Business's products are able to interact with and leverage the security, identity, manageability, and analytic features of Microsoft's enterprise infrastructure products, such as Windows Server, SQL Server, and System Center. For example, operational and transactional data collected by Windows Embedded Business products can interact with an organization's SQL Server—based business intelligence system to better understand business problems and opportunities. To do this, developers leverage their knowledge of Microsoft's development tools, such as Visual Studio, and Microsoft development platforms and APIs, such as the .NET Framework.
Embedded Business Products
Directions on Microsoft groups the Windows Embedded Business's products as follows:
Embedded OSs. Embedded OSs expose the underlying OS functionality as discrete components that are combined by a device developer to create a highly specialized OS image with only the features that are necessary for the device's particular application. Even when an embedded OS is built using components of a general purpose OS, the embedded instance may not be able to run "off-the-shelf" commercial applications, because the image may not include all the components the application needs. The resulting customized OS has a minimal footprint with highly focused, task-specific functionality. The advantage of using an embedded OS is that the developer can create highly specific and highly differentiated devices. The disadvantage of using an embedded OS is that significant device testing must be done to ensure that all the necessary components to support the device's intended use are included and correctly configured.
Device platforms. Device platforms provide an instance of an OS that the Windows Embedded Business has begun to customize for a specific application on a specific processor and hardware. The device manufacturer can then finish the customization of the platform with special components and the applications that provide the device's functionality. The advantage of using a device platform is that development is faster, shortening time to market. The disadvantage of using a device platform is that it may contain unneeded components, complicating testing, and it is harder to differentiate one device from others built on the same platform.
Embedded Business Product Roadmap
The two embedded OSs, Windows Embedded Standard and Windows Embedded Compact, will continue to be enhanced, as will three device platforms from the Windows Embedded Business: Windows Embedded Industry, Windows Embedded Automotive, and Windows Embedded Handheld.
Both Embedded OSs Get Important Updates
Windows Embedded Standard will be updated for the Windows 8 kernel, while Windows Embedded Compact will be updated for new tools. (For a comparison of Windows Embedded Standard and Windows Embedded Compact, see the chart "Component-Based Embedded OS Comparison".) The roadmap for these embedded OSs runs as follows:
Windows Embedded Standard. The current version is Windows Embedded Standard 7. The next version, Windows Embedded 8 Standard, is currently in the release preview stage and is expected to be generally available in Mar. 2013.
Windows Embedded 8 Standard includes components for most of the functionality of Windows 8 Pro. The Windows Embedded Business adds components that are not part of the base Windows client OS, such as filters, or specialized device drivers that allow for further customization of the OS. For example, Windows Embedded 8 Standard includes a write filter that prohibits data from being saved on the device and a gesture filter that can customize a device so that a user cannot use a gesture on the device's touch screen to access the Windows 8 Modern UI's Charm bar to change device or application settings.
Technically, Windows Embedded 8 Standard should run applications that run on Windows 8 Pro or Windows Embedded Standard 7, as long as the developer of the OS image includes all of the OS components needed by the application.
Windows Embedded Compact. The current version is Windows Embedded Compact 7. The next version, Windows Embedded Compact 2013, is in development and is expected to be generally available in the second quarter of 2013.
Windows Embedded Compact 2013 includes components designed to create a small footprint, real-time OS that runs on ARM and x86 processors. Although it resembles the Windows client OS, Windows Embedded Compact was designed for specialized applications, and there are substantial differences in support for specific programming platforms and APIs. For example, Windows Embedded Compact supports a subset of the .NET Framework called the .NET Compact Framework. Improvements in Windows Embedded Compact 2013 include faster boot time and other performance enhancements, and it will include the .NET Compact Framework version 3.9. Instead of requiring developers to use an older version of Visual Studio to develop custom components and applications, it will now support Visual Studio 2012.
Technically, Windows Embedded Compact 2013 should run the same custom components and applications that run on Windows Embedded Compact 7, although they will need to be recompiled for the new OS.
Device Platforms Get Windows 8 Technologies
All three of Microsoft's device platforms will adopt core OS technologies based on Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 and receive other important updates.
Windows Embedded Industry. The current version is Windows POSReady 7 and is based on Windows Embedded Standard 7. It is targeted at retail point-of-service devices. The next version, which will be renamed Windows Embedded 8 Industry, will be based on Windows Embedded 8 Standard and include features to enable partners to deliver embedded device solutions for retail, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. Windows Embedded 8 Industry is available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP), with general availability likely in the second quarter of 2013.
Because the current version and future version are based on similar Windows OS technologies, application compatibility is likely not affected. However, applications will need to be enhanced to use new features such as multitouch or the WinRT APIs.
Windows Embedded Automotive. The current version, Automotive 7.0, is based on Windows Embedded Compact 7. The next version, based on currently unspecified Windows 8 technologies, has been announced, but additional information will not be available until sometime in the first half of 2013.
This product is a small, highly customizable device platform for installation in cars by automobile manufacturers to provide cellular communication, entertainment, and navigation services. For example, this platform is the basis for the Sync products that come with some Ford cars.
Because of a major change in the underlying Windows OS technologies, there will be no application compatibility between the current and next versions. Applications will have to be written for the new version.
Windows Embedded Handheld. The current version, Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, is based on Windows Mobile 6.5, which in turn is based on Windows CE 5.0. The next version, Windows Embedded 8 Handheld, will be based on the Windows Phone 8. Windows Embedded 8 Handheld's release schedule has not been announced, but more information should be available in the second half of 2013.
This platform is designed for building proprietary mobile devices to run task-specific applications on a ruggedized handheld device. Although the devices may resemble Windows 8 Phones because they rely on the same Qualcomm ARM-based processor with an integrated radio (cellular) stack, the platform also includes support for integrated peripherals, such as a bar-code reader or other scanner. The platform, which uses the Windows Phone 8 SDK with additional handheld specific APIs, includes components to integrate such peripheral devices into the OS and make their capabilities available for applications so that device and application developers do not have to write custom code to handle all the different peripherals of the same type from different suppliers. Windows Embedded 8 Handheld closely follows Windows Phone 8, so devices will have the same characteristics, such as screen size and resolution, as phones based on Windows Phone 8.
The change from Windows CE technology to Windows Phone 8 means that applications written for the current version of Windows Embedded Handheld will not run on the next version, but applications written for Windows Phone 8 should run on Windows Embedded 8 Handheld.
OS Licenses for Embedded Systems
In addition to the actual embedded products, Windows Embedded Business also supplies licensing options for some Microsoft software to provide a way for developers to include the full capabilities of an OS for redistribution with a device.
Several Microsoft products, such as the current version of the Windows Client, Windows Server, and SQL Server products, can be licensed for inclusion in devices or appliances as an embeddable OS.
Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 embeddable licenses are already available. The current version of the Windows client OS, based on Windows 7, that can be licensed in this manner is Windows 7 for Embedded Systems. The next version, Windows Embedded 8 Pro, based on Windows 8 Pro client, will be generally available in the first quarter of 2013.
Availability and Resources
A blog posting that begins to outline the new features of Windows Embedded Compact 2013 is available at blogs.msdn.com/b/windows-embedded/archive/2012/11/14/windows-embedded-compact-v-next-uncovered.aspx.
The announcement of the new embedded and intelligent systems roadmap is at www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/2012/nov12/11-13EmbeddedRoadmap.aspx.
The Windows Embedded Web site is at www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded.
Embedded product support life-cycle information is available at www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/evaluate/windows-embedded-roadmap.aspx. Slightly different life-cycle information is available by searching for individual products at support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeselectindex