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Windows XP Embedded Ships Early

Microsoft Corp. released Windows XP Embedded nearly two months ahead of schedule on Wednesday at the Windows Embedded Developers Conference.

Business uses for the componentized version of the client operating system include thin clients, retail point-of-sale devices, self-service kiosks and industrial automation.

"We committed to providing the latest Windows technologies to our embedded customers within 90 days of the general availability of Windows XP, and we are excited to launch Windows XP Embedded ahead of that commitment, within 35 days," Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsoft's Platforms Division, said in a statement.

The embedded operating system replaces Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, the previous version and one that trailed the general availability of Windows NT 4.0 by a long period.

Microsoft decided to skip developing an embedded version of Windows 2000 in order to deliver a Windows XP Embedded operating system about the same time as the general release.

Kim Akers, a director of the Microsoft Embedded and Appliance Platform Group, says Microsoft is committed to further reducing the time gap between general operating system releases and embedded versions in the future.

Al Gillen, an operating environment analyst with IDC, says Microsoft did a smart thing with the XP Embedded version.

"They've changed the whole way they build the operating system. It used to be they would build the operating system, and then they would go back and try to decompose it to make it configurable. It was very complex to figure out [the dependencies of different components] after the fact. They made an understanding of the dependencies a core part of the process," Gillen says.

The configurability of the Windows XP version, which can range from 4.8 MB to 70 MB depending on which of the 10,000 components an embedded device developer chooses, is the key improvement over Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, according to Gillen.

The operating system probably won't compete against traditional embedded operating systems because its footprint is relatively large, Gillen says. But Windows XP will go toe-to-toe with Linux in many embedded developer design scenarios, Gillen says. XP Embedded's primary advantage over Linux will be its ability to run Win32 applications, he says.

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a free evaluation version that time bombs after 120 days and a three-month promotional price of $995.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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