Microsoft Shapes Windows Embedded Road Map

The software giant renames Windows Embedded products and taps new developers.

Microsoft has set a course for its Windows Embedded business that includes renaming its family of products and reaching out to a broad group of developers.

At the Embedded Systems Conference Silicon Valley 2008 in San Jose, Calif., April 15, Microsoft officials laid out the next phase in their strategy for the Windows Embedded Business, providing a strategic road map and plans for new solutions in key device categories.

Meanwhile, also at the conference, Microsoft provided details about its Spark Your Imagination community-focused program, a joint agreement between Microsoft and a group of hardware vendors to bring a complete offering of hardware and software to nonprofessional developers through a simple and affordable model.

The program offerings have an estimated retail value of $1,300, but are available at prices ranging from $200 to $400, said Mike Hall, technical product manager in the Windows Embedded project group.

The effort was previously code-named the "Spark" initiative when it was first announced in November. The renamed Spark Your Imagination initiative brings the benefits of embedded development on Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 and Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition to hobbyist developers and the academic community. Details about the project can be found here.

Microsoft initially targeted students and faculty in the embedded technology and design fields with the Spark effort through the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance Program. However, through the Spark Your Imagination community program, Microsoft is adding complementary offerings and extending them to the greater nonprofessional developer community to tap hobbyists and additional student groups-the future talent pool.

The initial list of hardware vendors participating in the program includes AdvanTech, ICOP Digital, Keith & Koep, VIA Technologies and Special Computing.

Program participants will receive a full version of Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 and Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with select boards from participating hardware vendors. Yet the offering is for noncommercial use. In addition, Microsoft announced that the company will begin offering BSP (Board Support Package) certification at no charge, which will now apply to both commercial and noncommercial use.

"With today's strategic road map announcement, our aim is to present the evolving Windows Embedded product family in an intuitive fashion, making it easier for our customers to choose the right platforms and tools for their needs," said Kevin Dallas, general manager of the Windows Embedded Business at Microsoft. "Windows Embedded solutions for key device categories will energize our partner ecosystem by enabling new business scenarios and help lay the foundation for partners to successfully fulfill our vision of a new generation of smart, connected, service-oriented devices."

The first product release under the new naming strategy will be Windows Embedded Standard, the next generation of Windows XP Embedded, and will be launched simultaneously at Microsoft's TechEd North America conference and through a global Webcast June 3.

All presently available Windows Embedded products will be marketed under their current names until their next scheduled product release.

The Windows Embedded Ready product line for key device categories will include the next generation of Windows Embedded Point of Service, Windows Embedded POSReady.

The Windows Embedded family of products includes Windows Embedded Standard-the next generation of Windows XP Embedded. The next product release is currently forecast for later this year. The product family also includes Windows Embedded Compact-the next generation of Windows Embedded CE. The next product release is currently forecast for 2009.

In addition, there is Windows Embedded Enterprise-a fully application-compatible embedded operating system that over time will gain a broader set of embedded enabling features. Today this product group is composed of Windows Vista and Windows XP for Embedded Systems and is licensed exclusively for embedded device development. In addition, the product family also features Windows Embedded POSReady-the next generation of Windows Embedded for Point of Service. The next product release is currently forecast for 2009.

"We decided to rename the products to reflect more of a family perception of the products," Hall said. Meanwhile, the Spark effort is an effort to extend the reach of Windows Embedded and tap a new group of developers, he said.

According to Microsoft's own research, there are about 316,000 embedded software engineers working on embedded systems today.

Microsoft also estimates that between 2006 and 2010, the market for connected enterprise devices will grow by 23 percent per year, and the market for connected consumer devices is expected to grow at a rate of 50 percent per year. In addition, out of the 3 billion embedded devices shipping this year, about two-thirds of them will be connected to a network, management service, navigation or map set of information.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced the establishment of Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Certification, the first certification included in the Microsoft Certification Program for the Windows Embedded product family.