Microsoft previews Windows 8 Embedded

Microsoft's embedded Windows operating system will share much of the functionality of Windows 8

Rounding out its line of recent Windows 8 releases, Microsoft has posted a community technology preview of the next Windows OS for embedded systems, Windows Embedded Standard 8.

The release closely follows the preview releases of the consumer-focused Windows 8 and Windows Server 8. All of the OSes share common elements, which could ease development and maintenance for developers and system builders, Microsoft said.

Microsoft created this version of Windows for embedded systems, small computational and sensor-based electronic components that collect data and automate simple actions. Such devices are widely embedded in many consumer and industrial applications such as vending machines, refrigerators, digital music players, automobiles and routine assembly line tasks.

As the cost and power requirements of microprocessors continue to plummet, the use of sophisticated microcontrollers becomes more feasible for a wider variety of tasks. IDC expects that the market for such systems will expand to US$2 trillion by 2015. Microsoft has focused its efforts on refining Windows Embedded for a subset of this market called intelligent systems, which combine processing power with networking and cloud computing to bring more computational prowess to devices.

Windows Embedded Standard 8 has been designed to address the needs of this large and heterogenous marketplace, according to the company.

For instance, the OS has been separated into stand-alone but interoperable components, which can be easily added and removed to fit the needs of its host. Microsoft will also offer a number of preconfigured modules for specific industry uses.

Organizations can customize the user interface to their own presentation standards. System administrators can manage the OS through the Universal Configuration Tool, which can be evoked both locally and over the network. The software package also includes a module designer, which provides an easy way to integrate third-party software into the OS.

Another advantage to this release lies in its similarity to Windows 8, Microsoft said. Like Windows 8, Windows Embedded Standard 8 features the Metro user interface. It also benefits from the security and core OS components improvements that are being added in Windows 8. Developers can use the same development tools they would use for Windows 8, such as Microsoft's .Net framework, to build applications for this embedded OS.

The CTP of Windows Embedded Standard 8 is not meant for production use. Rather Microsoft has released it so system builders can get a feel of how to use the OS in their own systems. The CTP runs only on the x86 architecture, either 32-bit or 64-bit systems. The company did not disclose the final release of the OS.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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