Operating Systems

Microsoft Hones Windows Embedded OS, Adds Silverlight

In its latest salvo in the battle for platform dominance on specialized devices, Microsoft has released its newest Windows Embedded operating system to developers.

At its Tech-Ed North America Developer Conference in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft Wednesday announced the availability of Windows Embedded Standard in preview or beta form, and said it will be rolled out to the market-at-large in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Embedded Standard takes its place in a line of operating systems designed to run on a range of devices that continue to get smaller and more specialized for particular uses and locations. This current release — which is designed for thin clients and point-of-service computers such as kiosks in retail stores — represents the newest version of what previously was called “Windows XP Embedded.”

Bridge to the Enterprise

Microsoft is focusing on two trends with this release, John Doyle, Windows Embedded Standard senior product manager, told TechNewsWorld.

Enterprises now require their specialized devices to access information buried deep within the IT infrastructure of the organization, he noted. Thus, the operating system on those devices must be compatible with their more fully featured counterparts running on enterprise servers.

In addition, users of thin clients and point-of-service computers continue to seek rich functionality, such as multimedia features and browser-agnostic viewing. For example, a shopper in a music store might wish to browse the selection of recordings on a kiosk and then listen to some but watch the videos for others.

Based on such consumer behavior, a music distributor might choose to change a store’s inventory, targeting the prospective buyers who actually show up there.

Reframing the Embedded Line

Windows Standard falls into the first of two groups of products in the Embedded line, as Microsoft has newly framed it, noted Doyle. Along with Windows Standard in the first group is the former Windows CE, renamed “Windows Compact.”

The second group includes Windows Embedded Enterprise and Microsoft’s about-to-grow line of operating systems designed to run on devices in specific vertical industries. One version already has been rolled out to the point-of-sale segment in the retail industry. Another will be announced in the near future, Doyle said.

Pushing Silverlight

Perhaps the most-touted enhancement in Windows Embedded Standard is support for Microsoft Silverlight, the company’s newest plug-in. Silverlight, which Microsoft says is intended for a wide range of browsers, not just Internet Explorer, will display streaming video and animation. It will also support rich Internet applications (RIAs) rolling out on newer-generation sites.

Windows Embedded Standard includes Windows Media Player 11, Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5, and Internet Explorer 7, which puts it squarely in line with previous releases. Remote Desktop Protocol 6.1 and Network Access Protection are included to make the operating system compatible with Windows Vista.

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