Microsoft has a new Windows 10 release for Internet of things (IoT) devices, specifically the Raspberry Pi 2 and the MinnowBoard Max maker boards.
Compact, customizable and affordable, computing boards like the Raspberry Pi 2 have attracted the attention of both technology enthusiasts and businesses. Their tiny dimensions, generous processing power (comparatively speaking) and developer-friendly attributes have catapulted the device category from hobbyist tools to IoT building blocks.
And Microsoft wants a piece of the action.
“Windows 10 IoT Core is a new edition for Windows targeted towards small, embedded devices that may or may not have screens,” said Steve Teixeira, director of program management for the Internet of Things group at Microsoft, in an Aug. 10 announcement. “For devices with screens, Windows 10 IoT Core does not have a Windows shell experience; instead you can write a Universal Windows app that is the interface and ‘personality’ for your device.”
More than a recently-released operating system for desktop PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s, Windows 10 is an ambitious effort by Microsoft to unify its software foundation across a wide variety of devices, including mobile phones, Xbox One, the massive Surface Hub all-in-one conference room system, the upcoming HoloLens augmented reality headset and now IoT hardware.
Since a beta version was released at Microsoft’s Build developer conference in late April, Windows 10 IoT Core has been updated with major new functionality, including WiFi and Bluetooth support. Also new in the official release is improved support for Python and Node.js. Plus, a new Express Node.js project template is available.
“GPIO performance on the Raspberry Pi 2 has improved by 8X to 10X,” Teixeira added. GPIO, short for general-purpose input/output, is the connector that acts as the physical interface between the Raspberry Pi board and the outside world. GPIO can be used to collect data for sensors, transfer data to other devices, or signal other machines to take action or initiate tasks.
“Analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and pulse-width modulation (PWM) are now supported via breakout boards and ICs [integrated circuits],” continued Teixeira. Developers can use the new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) APIs to extend IoT device management capabilities to their apps.
As always, support among developers is key to growing a software ecosystem. In terms of Windows-based IoT, Microsoft is speaking their language, whichever it may be, according to Teixeira.
“Our philosophy is that we want to make it easy for developers to use the languages and frameworks they prefer to build IoT device apps,” he said. “This means full support for the standard UWP languages like C++, C#, JS and VB, but it also means bringing support—including full tools, debugging, and project systems—for Node.js and Python.”
Code samples, documentation, libraries and tools are available on GitHub under an open-source license. If and when some of those samples become full-blown projects, the company plans to publish them to Hackster.io, a project site for the maker board community.
Windows 10 IoT Core is available now as a free download. Development machines require Windows 10 (Build 10240) and Visual Studio 2015.