Microsoft considering development boards for Windows Phone, RT

The company hasn't yet said whether it will offer the hardware boards for makers

Microsoft has considered making development boards for Windows Phone or Windows RT in addition to the x86 boards it already makes, but the company isn't saying if it would ever release such products.

Microsoft hasn't yet announced plans to release such boards, which would be platforms for writing applications for Windows Phone and Windows RT, but there has been some talk about the idea, Microsoft representatives said during a webcast on Monday.

"We don't have any plans we can announce ... right now, but rest assured, it's something that keeps us awake at night," Peter Wieland, principal developer at Microsoft, said during the webcast.

"Stay tuned, we'll let you know as soon as we've got plans firmed up," said Viraf Gandhi, senior program manager at Microsoft, following Wieland's comments.

In the past two months, Microsoft has released Windows-based development boards, based on Intel x86 processors, that hardware hackers can use to test and develop products. Those products could be smart appliances, robots, sensors or even tablets.

The boards are a way for Microsoft to tap into the maker community for new ideas about devices where Windows might be used. One such area is the "Internet of things," where data-collecting instruments gather and transmit real-time information for alerts or analysis. Through developer boards, Microsoft hopes to put Windows in more IoT devices, which are expected to number in the billions in the coming years.

Windows Phone and RT run on ARM processors, so Microsoft's x86 development boards don't apply to those OSes. The company offers two boards today: Galileo, which runs on a low-power Intel Quark processor, is for smart devices, robots and Internet-connected appliances; and Sharks Cove, which has an Intel Bay Trail processor, is mainly for tablets and PC driver development.

ARM dominates the smartphone and tablet market and increasingly is being used in development boards from other vendors. For example, the popular US$25 Raspberry Pi board has an ARM processor and runs on Linux.

Thousands of Galileo boards with a pared-down version of Windows 8.1 have been shipped to developers, presenters said during the webcast.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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