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Microsoft Outlines Next-Gen Windows Embedded Roadmap

Microsoft today announced some roadmap changes to come for its next-generation Windows Embedded operating system product line.

These changes, labeled "v.Next," mostly center on bringing Windows 8 capabilities into upcoming 2012 Windows Embedded products. Microsoft's announcements were vague on the details, possibly because the various v.Next Windows Embedded products will have separate development timelines.

Roadmap Changes
Here are the changes, according to a Microsoft blog. Windows Embedded Standard v.Next "will be a customizable and componentized version of Windows 8." Meanwhile, Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next "will bring Windows 8 technologies to embedded devices." Finally, Windows Embedded Compact v.Next "will be based on the CE core but it will also bring support for native application development in the latest Visual Studio version."

A Microsoft spokesperson clarified that Windows Embedded Compact v.Next, when released, will be based on "the current version of Windows Embedded Compact." That current version is based on Windows 7. It was released in March, but Microsoft said in a press release that it was updated in October. Windows Embedded Compact v.Next is scheduled for release in "the second half of 2012."

Window Embedded Standard v.Next will be available for testing via a community technology preview version, which is expected to be released in "the first quarter of 2012," according to Microsoft. General availability of the product wasn't announced because it's tied to the release of Windows 8, which Microsoft has not disclosed. Some expect Windows 8 to appear in April 2012 (at earliest) or later in 2013. Microsoft said it plans to release Windows Embedded Standard v.Next "three quarters after Windows 8 is generally available for PCs," which should push out its release date into 2013 at least.

Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next will be available "a quarter after Windows 8 general availability," according to the blog. The timing is confusing and suggests that Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next won't be based on Windows 8. Current Windows Embedded Enterprise 7 releases are based on upper-end editions of Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP. So, it's not really clear what Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next will be based on.

Windows Embedded Standard v.Next will have a new support capability for ARM-based chip architectures. Windows Embedded Compact v.Next presumably also will have ARM support because the current Windows Embedded Compact 7 version has that capability. Microsoft omitted any mention of Windows Embedded Enterprise v.Next having ARM support, so it probably won't.

Other Windows Embedded Operations
Microsoft also has other Windows Embedded segments, but few details about their position in the roadmap were provided, except for a statement by Kevin Dallas, general manager of Windows Embedded.

"Also, if you’re thinking about the future of Windows Embedded Handheld, Windows Embedded POSReady and Windows Embedded Automotive, and our entire portfolio of products, know that we are investing in these to include the latest Microsoft technologies as well," Dallas said in a released statement.

A new Windows Embedded Handheld blog appeared at the end of October, revealing few details. It stated that Microsoft is working on the next generation of Windows Embedded Handheld but plans to continue its support for OEM partners by releasing updates to Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5. On the mobile side, Microsoft has two mobile segments: "Windows Embedded Business" and "Mobile Communications Business." The Business unit oversees Windows Embedded Compact and Windows Embedded Handheld OSes, which are aimed at the enterprise, industrial and ruggedized device markets. Mobile Communications oversees Windows Phone OS and the consumer market.

Windows Embedded and Intelligent Systems
On top of those changes, Microsoft is promoting an "intelligent systems" marketing position for Windows Embedded. Intelligent systems, according to this scheme, enhance organizational operations by tapping data streams. Examples include data sent via point-of-sale devices, digital signage and kiosks. These intelligent systems can also tap Microsoft's cloud-based services, such as Office 365, Windows Azure and SQL Azure, Microsoft claims.

As part of these intelligent systems efforts, Microsoft organized its Windows Embedded segment under the Management and Security Division of the Microsoft Server and Tools Business back in September 2010. One of the products overseen by Server and Tools Business is System Center, Microsoft's suite of management solutions. The reorganization appears to be designed to bring those management capabilities to Windows Embedded OSes.

For instance, earlier this year, Microsoft released Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011, which is an extension of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

"The release of Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 in March helps OEMs take advantage of the extensive set of Microsoft technologies, while enabling enterprises to more effectively manage devices as part of enterprise IT infrastructures," the Microsoft spokesperson explained by e-mail.

The spokesperson had no information to share about whether such capabilities would be extended through System Center 2012 products, which are expected to start appearing on the market in the first half of next year.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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