If information is power, then Microsoft is looking at its Windows Embedded group to play a key role in making the software giant a lot more powerful as the unit lays the foundation for a new world of intelligent systems.
Microsoft is looking to be a major player in the new world of the Internet of things. These "things" include all kinds of embedded systems and devices instrumented with sensors that are constantly drawing data from a variety of inputs. With Windows Embedded leading the way as the operating system for these devices, Microsoft plans to get a chunk of the opportunity afforded by the data explosion from the world of devices. Not only is Microsoft planning to help enterprises retrieve data, but also to analyze it, put it in the cloud, store it and monetize it.
Indeed, Microsoft's Windows Embedded business has been laying the foundation for these intelligent systems that can extend enterprise software and cloud services out to everyday devices such as point of service (POS) terminals, in-car infotainment, medical equipment and even bar-top game machines.
According to Windows Embedded General Manager Kevin Dallas, like so many other transformations in the technology world, the move toward intelligent systems is all about information.
"Data has become the new currency," Dallas told eWEEK.
"With today's pervasive network connectivity, the emergence of cloud services and low-cost yet high-powered microchips, traditional embedded devices can now connect and participate as part of a broader IT infrastructure and exchange real-time data all the way to the customer's fingertips," Dallas said in a statement. "Intelligent systems offer endless possibilities for organizations to collect and act on information in real time, from understanding customer buying habits to tracking product shipments around the globe."
With so much potential, the opportunity for developers is a big one. According to analyst firm IDC, the market for intelligent systems will grow substantially in the next few years, from 800 million units today to more than 2.3 billion by 2015. Shipments of embedded devices already exceed cell phones and PCs, and IDC predicts the market for intelligent systems will soon represent a $520 billion industry.
"Advances in the technology for devices, natural user interfaces and cloud are taking us to an era where our customers are looking at these devices as data collection points," Dallas told eWEEK.
That is causing Microsoft's role to change from just providing operating systems for devices to providing software and services for intelligent systems, as well as server and cloud software and analytics solutions.
"Once that data is generated and captured, it becomes a currency of its own," Dallas said in a statement. "Data and insights are the fundamental benefits that organizations can realize from an intelligent system, and whether it's in science, medicine or commerce, we're only beginning to see what people can do with this technology."