The increasing use of multi-function equipment is forcing large software companies to broaden the core operating systems they provide to handle the range of applications required by these machines, while also being able to accommodate the additional dedicated devices of the future.
This, in turn, is forcing companies such as Microsoft Corp. to increasingly enter into partnerships with external software developers to build applications that will further enhance their operating environments.
One such partner is VenturCom Inc., which provides products and services for the real-time and embedded Windows NT, Windows CE and Windows 2000 environments. In 1998, Microsoft took a 10 percent stake in the company and bought some of VenturComs embedded authoring tools, which helped Microsoft componentize Windows 2000.
Officials at VenturCom, in Cambridge, Mass., said that in the past, companies wanting to handle time-critical computing had to have a targeted computer or separate box specially configured for that function. VenturCom last week released its RTX 5.0 software, which adds support for Windows-2000-class systems and allows time-critical scheduling to be added to the operating system.
Mark Easter, manager of computer systems for Flight Safety Inc., in Broken Arrow, Okla., which develops and builds $10 million flight simulators that airlines use to train pilots, agrees with VenturComs notion that an increasing amount of horsepower is making its way into smaller form factors and every embedded system.
"We used to need a specific, dedicated real-time proprietary system to monitor our simulators, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," Easter said. "But now, with the evolution of technology, we are able to get those same real-time characteristics and the same level of performance from an off-the-shelf PC."
This streamlining has cut Flight Safetys costs in this area from $100,000, for the large, top-end system once used, to about $2,000, for a Gateway Inc. computer and additional software that now monitors the flight simulators. Flight Safety is also moving its platform from NT to Windows 2000 and is upgrading to VenturComs RTX 5.0. In addition, the company is also using other applications, such as Microsofts Office, on the Windows 2000 box.
While VenturComs focus is on the pervasive Windows platform, officials conceded that Linux is becoming pervasive as well.