Microsoft on Tuesday announced the availability of a test version of its Windows Embedded Standard 2011 operating system, formerly code-named "Quebec."
The community technology preview (CTP) can be downloaded at the Microsoft Connect site here.
The new OS is part of the broader Windows Embedded product family and succeeds Windows Embedded Standard 2009, a Windows XP-based OS.
Windows Embedded Standard 2011 is Windows 7 based, supporting both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 hardware. This release marks the first occasion where the Standard version provides 64-bit support. The OS was initially described as Vista based, but Microsoft clarified back in October that it would build the next version of Windows Embedded Standard based on Windows 7.
The CTP software is available for testing by the public, as well as by Microsoft's original equipment manufacturer partners and developers. Redmond plans to release the OS to the market in "approximately the second half of calendar year 2010," according to a Microsoft spokesperson.
Windows Embedded Standard 2011 is a componentized form of Windows 7 that supports "specialized" hardware devices, such as consumer Internet devices, thin clients, kiosks and medical devices. Developers can select the components they need for a particular device.
The OS includes Microsoft's Silverlight multimedia application, .NET Framework 3.5, and Remote Desktop Protocol 7.0. In addition, it supports Windows Media Player 12 and Internet Explorer 8. Developers can access a custom shell and can set up custom branding.
The embedded OS supports a number of Windows 7 features, including the Aero graphical user interface and touch, as well as AppLocker and BitLocker security features.
Windows Embedded Standard 2011 will work with other Microsoft solutions, such as Active Directory for setting group policies, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, desktop virtualization and Microsoft Terminal Services. Rich user experiences can be set up using Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation.
This sort of integration with Microsoft products is possible with the 2009 Standard version. However, the 2011 Standard version provides the additional benefits of supporting Microsoft's latest technologies and Windows 7 capabilities, according to Ashwin Kulkarni, Microsoft's senior product manager for Windows Embedded.
"We have a number of different OEMs or partners who work with us in order to build enterprise-class devices," Kulkarni said. "The customers of these OEMs are looking for devices that can easily hook into their network infrastructure, which means that they already have a domain that has been set up; they already have a management infrastructure that has been set up. They just want these devices to automatically connect without having any additional investment in how to manage and police them."
Windows Embedded Standard 2011 essentially will let the end customer use the existing policies of the network across those devices, he added.
So far, Microsoft has achieved a dominating presence in the embedded OS market, particularly over the last four years, according to Dr. Jerry Krasner, founder of Embedded Market Forecasters, a market intelligence advisory firm based in Framingham, Mass.
"Twenty-three percent of all embedded operating systems on targeted processors are using Microsoft XPe [Windows Embedded Standard 2009]," Krasner said. "Microsoft is beating out everybody else in this market."
Windows Embedded Standard 2011 is expected to have a big footprint, taking up 300 MB compared with 40 MB for Windows Embedded Standard 2009, according to an article by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley, published last year. If so, that may push the definition of an embedded OS, according to Krasner.
"Footprints for embedded systems typically have about 50,000 lines of code, but that gets reduced to 5,000 lines of code to meet security standards," Krasner said.
The footprint of Windows Embedded Standard 2011 hasn't been determined yet, according to Kulkarni, but developers have lots of options due to its modularization.
"Right now we are still going through our optimization around the exact system requirements for Windows Embedded Standard 2011," Kulkarni said. "What we would like the OEMs and developers to do is to really provide us with the feedback on the nature of what's being delivered today. And as we come closer towards the RTM or the release of the product, that's when we'll provide more guidance on the exact size requirements and exact systems requirements needed for the device -- both the minimum and maximum."
Microsoft plans to release more information about its Windows Embedded product road map within the next 30 days, including a keynote address at the upcoming Embedded Systems Conference in Boston on Sept. 22.
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