Companies Adopting Microsofts .Net Micro Framework

Analog Devices and Crossbow Technology look to the technology to help with their embedded offerings.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Microsoft officials June 5 said two partner companies are adopting the software giants .Net Micro framework for their device and processor support.

At its TechEd 2007 show here, Microsoft announced that it is enabling embedded systems developers by porting the .Net Micro Framework to Analog Devicess Blackfin processors.

The .Net Micro Framework brings the modern programming paradigm of Microsofts .Net environment to the embedded world, Colin Miller, product unit manager of the .Net Micro Framework, said in an interview with eWEEK. The .Net Micro Framework expands Microsofts embedded offerings into a new market of devices that are based on low-cost 32-bit processors and are constrained in terms of memory, battery power or other resources, he said.

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Moreover, in addition to being fully integrated with Microsofts Visual Studio integrated development environment, the .Net Micro Framework SDK (software development kit) comes with an extensible emulator to simulate targeted hardware capabilities. The framework enables device developers to connect diverse hardware solutions to virtually any peripheral device through industry-standard communication connections and custom-managed drivers.

Meanwhile, Analog Devices Blackfin family offers the functionality of both a 16-bit DSP (digital signal processing) and a 32-bit MCU (microcontroller) in a unified architecture, the company said.

In a separate announcement, Crossbow Technology, a San Jose, Calif.-based supplier of wireless sensor technology and inertial MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) sensors for navigation and control, announced its Imote2.Builder for .Net Micro Framework. The Imote2 SDK is based on the Microsoft .Net Micro Framework. The Imote2.Builder is a set of tools for developing wireless sensor applications on the Marvell PXA hardware platform, on which the Imote2 is built, the company said.

The .Net Micro Framework came out of a Microsoft Research project, Miller said. "We built, from the ground up, a platform for embedded developers," he said. The platform supports developing applications for devices like SPOT (smart personal objects technology) watches, and set-top boxes, and products used for factory floor automation, retail, home automation and healthcare, Miller said.

With the .Net Micro framework, "you can download an application to a device and continue debugging it as if its still on the desktop."

Because the .Net Micro Framework is based on Visual Studio, the technology opens the doors of embedded development to a new class of developers, Miller said.

In addition, "its a great tool to increase the productivity of developers in the embedded and micro space," he said. The .Net Micro Framework "fits underneath the .Net Framework Compact Edition [CE] and its a great extension to the Microsoft integration story," Miller said.

However, "CE only went down to a certain point [in the embedded space," he said. "Linux has implementations that were smaller than CE, but now were there with a smaller offering and we have better tools than Linux."

The next big release of the .Net Micro Framework will come in the first quarter of next year, Miller said.

"Were also working on a TCP/IP stack and putting that in the platform," he said. "And were going to deliver a beta later this year that has a Web Services for Devices component."

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