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Microsoft unveils NT Embedded – Not

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Will Microsoft be able to find a kamikaze employee willing to test embedded Windows NT in his or her pacemaker? That's one of the key issues that arise from a leaked announcement today. To be fair, Microsoft hasn't asked for kamikaze volunteers yet. But it is trying to suggest that Windows CE is for embedded operating systems in consumer devices, while devices for grown-ups require NT. Last November, the embedded systems conference saw Microsoft make its initial announcement of embedded NT. Now Vince Mendillo, the lead product manager for NT Embedded, suggests that Microsoft intends to embed NT 4.0 and offer it as either a run-time or a development kit by the year end. But late last night, Bloomberg filed a story from Redmond noting that "Microsoft Corporation introduced a version of its Windows NT operating system for intelligent devices..." The only problem with the story was that embedded NT was not there to take a bow, but Bloomberg was able to add that "more than 60 manufacturers, including Siemens AG, Germany's biggest engineering company [sic], and ThermoGenesis Corp, which makes systems for harvesting drugs from blood, announced support for Windows NT Embedded". So there we have it: those clever Microsoft researchers have found away to recycle drugs by extracting them from blood before their potency is reduced. The evidence suggests that they must have had their greatest success with hallucinogens, which The Register will confirm after some testing in its West Wing laboratories. Meanwhile, Gartner is confidently predicting that 15 per cent of embedded systems for $5,000-plus devices will include some form of NT Embedded by the end of 2002. But even when Microsoft gets something out of the door, it will find itself facing tough competition from a number of outfits that are already established. Wind River Systems, tipped to be the Microsoft of embedded systems (although its share price has shown extreme volatility), has Tornado II in the marketplace. Integrated Systems Inc have been making embedded operating systems such as pSOSystem and pOSEK for around 20 years, and the company has some 35 million installed, including in pacemakers, lottery terminals, set-top boxes, lottery terminals, and petrol pumps. QNX Software Systems, with its HQ in Silicon Valley North (near Ottawa) was also founded in 1980. Its QNX realtime operating system has the largest share of the Intel x86 market. QNX is a microkernel, and there is an embeddable Photon microGUI as well. There are also some significant others with their hats in the ring: Sun would like to make Java the basis of embedded systems, of course, and Metroworks and Psion are also there. ®

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