Microsoft Courts Developers for Rebranded Windows Embedded Software
In a bid to beef up its embedded systems business, Microsoft is reaching out
to a broader cadre of developers while also looking to expose its existing ones
to the entire Windows development stack.
Microsoft is kicking off the effort today at the Embedded
Systems Conference Silicon Valley 2008 in San Jose, Calif., where the company
is disclosing the next release cycle of its family of embedded system software.
Redmond is rebranding its embedded products, which include Windows CE and
Windows XP Embedded, under the names Windows Embedded Compact and Windows Embedded
Standard, respectively. The effort also includes added certification.
The revamped developer outreach could be pivotal as developers face an onslaught
of options, including open source distributions. Microsoft finds itself needing
to shift its message to embedded systems developers after last year's move to
split it from its mobile communications business.
As a result, instead of holding the annual Microsoft Mobile & Embedded
DevCon, Microsoft is using this week's more extensive industry conference to
address its existing developers as well as those not currently proficient in
Microsoft's various Windows embedded platforms.
"We want to expand the developer pool that we are touching," said
Mike Hall, a software architect with Microsoft's Windows Embedded Product Group.
For its own developers, Hall said Microsoft wants to expose them to the larger
Microsoft stack, including .NET 3.5 and Silverlight, among others. Hence the
decision to bring its developers to the Tech-Ed
conference in Orlando in June.
While he applauds Microsoft's plan to add application development certification,
including the announcement of a Windows
CE certification exam, Directions on Microsoft analyst Greg DeMichillie
questions whether developers will benefit from having Microsoft bring in embedded
developers to Tech-Ed.
"If I'm an embedded developer, am I really going to go to a breakout session
on how to cluster Exchange Servers?" DeMichillie said. "When you have
a conference that is trying to serve that many different constituencies, both
corporate and commercial developers, you really run the risk of not serving
any of them particularly well."
DeMichillie also pointed out that renaming Windows CE in particular could cause
confusion. "People are going to think that Windows CE and Windows XP Embedded
are kissing cousins, and they are very different operating systems underneath,"
Windows Embedded CE is intended for small footprint devices, typically 300 KB
to 700 KB components, according
to Microsoft, while the company defines the current Windows XP Embedded
as reduced footprint systems requiring a minimum of 40 MB.
The first product to take on the new name will be Windows Embedded Standard,
the successor to Windows XP Embedded, which Microsoft will launch at Tech-Ed.
Windows CE, rechristened as Windows Embedded Compact, is slated for release
in the second half of 2009, Microsoft said. Also, in line with Microsoft's rebranding
effort, Windows Embedded Point of Service will be renamed Windows Embedded POS
Ready, and is slated for release at some point next year.
Microsoft is also offering versions of Windows XP and Vista targeted at OEM-based
applications. Called Windows Embedded Enterprise, they will be the same as their
desktop counterparts and, like them, cannot have components removed.
Also worth noting: Microsoft did not disclose any timetable for an embedded
version of Vista.
"That's fine. Vista requires more power, more graphics and more processors,"
DeMichillie said. "For an embedded developer, that's going the wrong way.
It shows that Windows XP is going to be with us in the embedded space for a
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of ADTmag.com and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine.