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Microsoft tools up for Embedded NT

Suggestions of an October launch are somewhat OTT, but this is a biggie, strategically

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According to some reports today Microsoft is poised to launch Embedded Windows NT next month. A bit of a rush this, even for Microsoft - the company is currently advertising for an entire team to, er, develop the OS from ground zero. We quote: "Program Manager (new job) - Primary responsibilities include driving the development of a new embedded NT operating system and appliance line of products being developed. This involves developing specifications for the operating system as well as development of new applications and services… Development Lead (new job) - Primary responsibilities include leading the development of a new embedded NT operating system and appliance line of products being developed. Additional responsibilities include developing design specifications, design & code reviews, and schedule management, hiring and working with a team of engineers and working with other teams to integrate diverse technologies." New jobs also exist for a software design engineer (development of a new etc), a software design engineer in test (testing of a new etc) and a test manager (testing of a new etc). Those nice people from Microsoft may well be planning to say some more about Embedded NT next month, but it's a deal away from shipping. But that doesn't mean it isn't a happening thing. Microsoft already has some retail customers who're using NT in retail environments, so that cash register with the touchscreen in the bar or the supermarket might actually be a PC running NT workstation. Microsoft wants to extend the reach of the corporate network way out into the stores, the warehouses and the delivery trucks (and, incidentally, to blow what's left of OS/2 out of the ATMs), and ultimately there's not a great deal of sense in offering an OS that isn't of itself real time, but does have a somewhat redundant ability to run Win32 productivity apps. It's Friday night in Hooters, and we really need to check the Excel spreadsheet before we serve these 50 customers, right? Sure… Microsoft has actually been trailing the prospect of Embedded NT for some time. Earlier this year senior VP Jim Allchin (who we recall slings a mean DoJ email) said Microsoft was working on a version of NT that could run on networking equipment, be used in home automation, in-car systems and goodness knows what else. Allchin claimed that Microsoft had been working on the OS for a while, so we can only conclude (see ads above) that all of the project staff left recently… But seriously, we can see connections. Intel is talking embedded too, and is taking pops at Microsoft's NT licensing policies as it does so. Intel's also playing footsie with Linux, and if we're talking about Intel systems that provide the smarts in network infrastructures, the home, the vehicle or retail, we're not necessarily talking about systems with Microsoft operating systems any more. So check out the flip side. Last year, when a senior Microsoft designer was explaining CE 2.0 and related embedded matters to us, we suggested that maybe CE 3.0 was going to be NT 6.0. He blushed and changed the subject. But it was a valid point. Microsoft's commencement of development of Embedded NT gives it an opportunity for a redesign of the OS from the ground up, jettisoning a lot of stuff real time embedded devices aren't going to need, and also giving it the opportunity to jettison x86. It did that when it designed CE, and as we pointed out earlier today, Linus Torvalds reckons concentrating on future NT versions and dumping backward compatibility is the way to go for CPU design. We think maybe he's on the money. ® Click for more stories

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