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Microsoft moving embedded systems to Windows 8

Win 8 for smart devices, CE for dumb ones

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Microsoft has outlined its strategy to bring Windows to the world of embedded systems, ranging from ATMs to the humblest embedded sensors.

Within three months of launching the mainstream versions of Windows 8 client and server, Redmond promises a version of the OS for smart embedded devices, dubbed Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next. This will let device manufacturers use a full copy of Windows 8 on systems such as ATMs and smart kiosks.

Six months after this release Redmond will unroll the next stage of the plan, called Windows Embedded Standard v.Next, aimed at slightly dumber devices. This will also be based on Windows 8, but will be customizable so that unnecessary parts of the code base can be removed if they are not needed, allowing the software footprint to be reduced by up to 30 per cent.

At the really thickie end of the embedded market (temperature sensors and the like) Microsoft will stick to the CE code base it originally designed for mobile phones with something called Windows Embedded Compact v.Next. This is out in the second half of 2012 and will support Windows Studio 2010.

“The growth of embedded systems is outstripping even the mobile phone,” Kevin Dallas, Microsoft’s embedded systems group manager, told The Register. “Key software components are needed to manage these devices, if they are to usefully feed data back to the operators.”

In terms of service and support, the operating systems can be configured to update automatically via wireless or cellular connections. An extra degree of control has been added, so that operators can schedule their data uploads and any updates that are needed. The system is part of a two-year Microsoft communications project dubbed Plontecchio.

Dallas gave the example of a kiosk that could be configured to send in its daily results at 3am in a 100MB download. Rather than get a general mobile plan to handle the data traffic, operators would instead be able to fix a plan with the mobile network provider to use this off-peak time, and so get a better deal on its data plan. Several mobile operators are looking at this he said, but no such plans are available as yet.

All of these sensors need back-end support, and so Microsoft is making the operating systems compatible with Systems Center 2012, via an embedded device manager. The data collected will also be available for processing on Microsoft’s Azure platform. ®

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