Windows 8: The future of Windows Embedded
Microsoft has announced its product roadmap for Windows 8 Embedded and Windows Embedded Compact 2013. In the Windows Embedded 8 family of operating systems, Microsoft combines a range of Windows 8 products with a variety of different purposes, technical characteristics and licensing models. Like those for the full-scale Windows 8 editions for PCs, they all include touch and gesture support:
- Windows Embedded 8 Standard is the modular version of Windows 8 for embedded systems. Developers can use a toolkit to build a custom Windows version, for example to adapt it to specific security requirements. It is the direct successor of Windows Embedded Standard 7, which, in turn, replaced XPe (Windows XP Embedded). After releasing the Community Technology Preview back in March, the developers have now made a Release Preview available and have scheduled the arrival of the final version for March 2013.
- Windows Embedded 8 Pro will replace Windows 7 for Embedded Systems in the Windows Embedded Enterprise series from March 2013. Technically speaking, this is a normal version of Windows 8 Pro; however the licence is adapted to suit devices with a single area of use.
- Windows Embedded 8 Industry is intended for kiosk systems; like its predecessor, Windows Embedded POSReady, it can be configured to offer a limited set of features with its own graphical user interface.
- Windows Embedded 8 Handheld is based on Windows Phone 8 and targets (for instance) portable (input) devices for the ARM processor industry.
- Windows Embedded 8 Automotive, as its name implies, targets the automotive industry, although Microsoft has revealed few details so far.
- Windows Embedded Compact 2013 isn't a direct member of the Windows 8 family; it is scheduled to follow on from Windows Embedded Compact 7 in the second quarter of 2013 and is said to offer a particularly small "footprint" and real-time functionality. It can be compiled for various hardware platforms.
As things stand at the moment, only the Embedded Compact 2013, Embedded 8 Handheld and perhaps the Embedded 8 Automotive variants are likely to be able to run on non-x86 systems. Microsoft has so far not mentioned RT versions for ARM-based systems. This seems a little surprising, at least because Microsoft has repeatedly promoted its vision of "Intelligent Systems", referring to the "Internet of Things". ARM support would be an essential step in this direction.