Microsoft Unveils Windows Embedded Automotive 7 for in-Car Systems

The latest Windows Embedded platform brings touch input, speech commands and advanced Silverlight graphics to infotainment systems in cars.

Microsoft introduced Windows Embedded Automotive 7, the latest version of its Windows platform for cars, on Oct. 19. It will be available to "select car makers and suppliers in the automotive industry," the company said in a statement.

Part of Microsoft's family of embedded platforms, Windows Embedded Automotive 7 targets car makers and suppliers that build infotainment systems for automobiles. Developers can combine communication, entertainment, navigation and information services on a single platform.

"Consumers are increasingly demanding access to new multimedia content, productivity solutions, and connected services for entertainment and communication from their in-vehicle systems, similar to what they expect from their other devices," said Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski.

Windows Embedded Automotive's "key features include speech commands, touch input, hands-free Bluetooth phone communications, advanced dashboard systems for access to music, maps, third-party apps and navigation, and streamlined connectivity with other devices," the company said.

In parallel, Microsoft revealed that Windows Embedded Compact 7 will not be released to manufacturing during the fourth quarter as was previously announced. Windows Embedded Compact 7 is a real-time operating system designed for consumer electronic devices such as mobile phone, digital cameras and GPS systems. The general availability date for Windows Embedded Compact 7 is now first quarter of 2011, a Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley.

The next generation of Windows Embedded CE, Windows Embedded Compact became a public beta in June. Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD have Windows Embedded Compact at the core. For developers currently working on Embedded Compact applications, Embedded Compact 6.0 R3 is the latest version available.

Silverlight for Windows Embedded will be available in the new automotive platform, Microsoft said. Car makers can create applications with two- and three-dimensional graphics using the Silverlight Rich Internet Application technology. Microsoft's Tellme speech technology will power simple and hands-free system commands. There is also extended SMS (Short Message Service) support allowing replies to text messages to be constructed by speech, the company said. Tellme on Automotive 7 supports eight languages: U.S. English, UK English, German, Mexican Spanish, Continental Spanish, Canadian French, Continental French and Korean.

There are also new developer tools to integrate third-party systems and simplify the development process, Microsoft said.

Windows Embedded Automotive-based systems are currently available in select models from various car manufacturers. Ford's MyFord Touch, the touch-screen information hub for Nissan's Leaf electric car and Fiat's Blue & Me media gateway are built on Windows Embedded Automotive.

"Windows Embedded Automotive 7 and Windows Embedded Compact 7 share some common components, including the Silverlight for Windows Embedded UI framework, although Windows Embedded Automotive 7 has been developed to meet the unique needs of the automotive industry," a company spokesperson said.

The "7" in the name indicates there are many components of the Windows 7 operating system, but because it's specialized for the automotive industry, it lacks most of the features and bulky code of the full operating system.

Other embedded Windows platforms include Windows Embedded Standard, the next generation of Windows XP Embedded that was released earlier in 2010, and Windows Embedded Handheld. Microsoft aligned all of its other embedded products shortly after announcing Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft made the announcement Oct. 19 at the SAE Convergence conference and exhibition.