In August, the free Real-Time & Embedded Computing Conference (RTECC) took place in several SoCal locations. Embedded software manages all kinds of “helpful high tech” – like anti-lock brakes, digital cameras, and vending machines – and it’s surprising how little people know about it considering how far it has advanced. For some devices, it doesn’t matter if the operating system (OS) is Linux, BeOS, or proprietary, as there is no user interaction. Interactive devices, however, require an advanced embedded OS, so Microsoft is going after the market quite aggressively with at least 10 versions of Windows Embedded.
“Windows + Cloud”
Windows Embedded delivers “Windows plus the cloud” to various intelligent devices (it’s not just about the iPad rental, okay?). Microsoft began working with embedded technology some 15 years ago and intends to support everything from office building automation to tablet PCs. Microsoft is wagering that “rich” user experiences, ubiquitous cloud connectivity, and flexible ways of harnessing data will produce a new sort of “extended intelligence.”
A major advantage for Microsoft is its longtime presence in the enterprise (big biz) market. Despite its vulnerabilities, Microsoft’s ”trusted platform” keeps a single standard across an enterprise, simplifying operations for everything from smart phones to desktop computer rentals. The downside? In its zeal to offer maximum flexibility, Microsoft has developed 10 different versions (so far). The only reason this won’t confuse the public as much as the multiple flavors of (regular) Windows is that consumers don’t have to choose an embedded OS – device makers do.
Flexibility or more confusion?
We’ll likely cover more on these in the coming weeks, as device makers debut new tools and toys with one or another embedded Windows OS. Here are the (gulp) 10 versions we know about now:
Windows Embedded Compact 7 (formerly CE) – Low-cost, real-time OS for small footprint consumer and enterprise devices ranging from GPS devices to Digital Picture Frames, Health Monitoring Devices to Vending Kiosks.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 SP1 (formerly XPe) – A fully componentized version for advanced commercial and consumer devices including simple Point of Service Terminals, Gaming Devices, Digital Signage, and Multi-Function Printers.
Windows Embedded POSReady 7 (formerly WEPOS) - An OS specifically made for Point of Service devices; retailers will improve transaction processing and customer retention with its extended customer experience capabilities.
Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 – Enterprises can deploy, measure, and update their Windows Embedded devices with this single solution.
Windows Embedded Enterprise – This offers application compatibility, a custom user interface, and fully functional versions of the desktop OS for devices such as computer kiosks, ATM systems, and complex industrial automation controllers and medical devices.