Now that Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Windows 8 Server have been released to the public, Microsoft has decided that it is time to give a preview of Windows 8 for embedded systems (officially called Windows Embedded Standard 8) to the general public. All three releases of these operating systems have general elements in common “which could ease development and maintenance for developers and system builders,” according to Microsoft.

I have written another article in the past talking about Windows 8 for embedded systems. If you don’t know what an embedded system is, it is basically any sort of electronic device that isn’t generally considered a “personal computer.” Some good examples of embedded systems would be ATM’s, GPS’s, and microwaves. Believe it or not, they all have microprocessors (most likely ARM) and all run some sort of operating system.

Most of these devices run a form of Linux (like Android) because Linux is free, easy to install, and it has a lot more customization options. But Windows also has its market share in embedded systems. I mostly see Windows being used at supermarket checkout lines and airport security, but I would bet we use Windows on embedded devices more than we know.

As the price of microprocessors goes down, the functionality of embedded systems will go up. As a matter of fact, IDC expects that by the year 2015, the market for these systems will grow to over $2 trillion. With the release of Windows Embedded Standard 8, Microsoft wants to focus its efforts on “intelligent systems” which is an example of how these embedded systems can get smarter.

These “intelligent systems” will combine processing power with networking and cloud computing which will allow for more power for the user.

Microsoft also said that “Windows Embedded Standard 8 has been designed to discuss the needs of this large and heterogeneous marketplace.”

This basically means that Microsoft is allowing for more customization options for the companies that are using their operating system. The operating system has been separated into standalone but interoperable parts that can be added or removed depending on whether they are needed or not. Microsoft will also allow different models (much like templates for Microsoft Publisher) for different industries.

Organizations will also be able to customize the user interface to their own standards. They will also be able to manage the operating system through the Universal Configuration Tool, which can be used both locally and over a network. A module designer is also included which is an easy way to allow the  inclusion of 3rd party software.

Also, Windows Embedded Standard 8 uses the Metro user interface just like the other versions of the operating system. It also benefits from the security and core operating system components that are being added to Windows 8. Developers can also use the .Net framework to build apps for the embedded system.

The CTP release is not meant for actual use, but more to get a feel for the operating system in their own systems. It also only runs on 32-bit architecture. There is no word yet on the final release of the operating system.


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