Microsoft Windows Embedded 8 Ships
Microsoft has announced the general availability of the Windows Embedded 8 family of operating systems.
Microsoft is extending Windows 8 technologies to a spectrum of edge devices. Windows Embedded 8 helps enterprises capitalize on the "Internet of Things" with the platform to capture, analyze and act on valuable data across IT infrastructures.
"Edge devices, connected and working in unison with an enterprise's broader IT infrastructure, unleash the potential of the Internet of Things by yielding the actionable data and operational intelligence that drive businesses forward," Kevin Dallas, Microsoft's general manager of Windows Embedded, said in a statement. "From the rich, familiar experience of Windows, to integrated management, analytics and cloud platforms, Windows Embedded 8—coupled with the full breadth of Microsoft technologies for intelligent systems—helps enterprises gain lasting competitive advantages in retail, manufacturing, health care and a variety of industries."
Devices at the edge of enterprise networks connected to integrated Microsoft software and services help enterprises identify and act on opportunities that otherwise would be out of reach by improving access to data, enhancing performance, extending security and powering flexible line-of-business applications.
"At a high level, what's becoming clearer is that Microsoft is becoming more of a devices and services company," Dallas told eWEEK.
With Windows Embedded 8, enterprises can harness Windows 8 technologies with additional features to support industry devices within intelligent systems—including experiences that provide customers and employees with access to information while ensuring the consistency and predictability businesses require. Businesses will also have the ability to add or buy enterprise-specific functionality for their Windows Embedded 8-based solutions through licensing options Microsoft will make available in July.
For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers, Windows Embedded 8 delivers the power of the Windows operating system to create advanced commercial devices. The Windows 8 innovations, coupled with additional embedded functionality for edge devices, will help them deliver differentiated solutions with security enhancements, a refined application model and touch-first industry experiences.
Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Embedded 8 Pro are available immediately for OEMs to build and ship solutions. Microsoft has launched http://www.getwindowsembedded8.com to provide download access to the platforms.
"We're working on a range of products for a range of devices, machines and sensors, and they'll be the source of data that will provide new economic opportunities for all of our customers and partners," Dallas said. "From a device, controller and sensor perspective, we'll have a full portfolio of products."
Microsoft said Windows Embedded 8 Industry, which targets retail point-of-service (POS) solutions and other scenarios across manufacturing and health care that require fixed experiences with enhanced lockdown, branding and the other benefits of Windows Embedded 8, will be available the week of April 1.
In addition, http://www.getwindowsembedded8.com also contains a video series of panel discussions and other resources for enterprises and OEMs to help them take advantage of intelligent systems with Windows Embedded 8. The videos focus on three key industries with significant potential for intelligent systems—health care, retail and manufacturing—all with unique needs and requirements for devices, including kiosks, human machine interface (HMI) panels, digital signs and POS terminals.
In January, at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York City, Microsoft and its Windows embedded OEM partners demonstrated updated versions of their products. At NRF, Microsoft also announced a new preview of the Windows Embedded 8 Industry product.
Meanwhile, Microsoft partners also demonstrated Windows Embedded 8 Handheld at NRF. There are currently five partners building around Embedded 8 Handheld: Motorola Solutions, Intermec, Honeywell, Ingenico and Bluebird.
"The landscape for retailers and enterprises across many industries is undoubtedly evolving, with handheld devices continuing to emerge as strategic assets that empower workers, service customers and fuel vital operational intelligence to the back end," Girish Rishi, senior vice president of enterprise solutions for Motorola Solutions, said in a statement. "By extending Windows Phone 8, Windows Embedded 8 Handheld will provide Motorola Solutions' customers with devices that deliver a rich, flexible experience for employees and an intelligent, connected experience for the customer and retailer."
In November 2012, Microsoft released a road map for its embedded solutions. At that time Microsoft unveiled its product road map for Windows Embedded 8 and Windows Embedded Compact 2013, both of which build on the company's vision for intelligent systems first announced in the fall of 2011.
"Faced with the explosion of business data, enterprises are looking for better alternatives to help them unlock the information inside," Dallas said in a statement. "Microsoft's broad set of technologies and products make it uniquely qualified to help address this problem. We're working with our partners to create solutions that extend across the full breadth of Microsoft technologies and provide customers with the clarity they need to harness big data."
Windows Embedded 8 is the family of device operating systems, including Windows Embedded 8 Standard, Windows Embedded 8 Pro and Windows Embedded 8 Industry. Each version has a distinct feature set that includes the building blocks for an intelligent system across hardware, software and services—namely, the ability to manage devices and identities; the presence of connected devices; the availability of rich, touch-enabled experiences; having devices that are secure; and the ability to analyze data.
Windows Embedded 8 supports a growing range of applications, device form factors, architectures and system requirements. In parallel, Windows Embedded Compact 2013 will support small-footprint devices that require flexible hardware, the use of touch- and gesture-based inputs and hard, real-time support. Windows Embedded Compact 2013 will be generally available in the second quarter of 2013, and, along with Windows Embedded 8, will feature support for Visual Studio 2012. Together, both provide the tools that enterprises need to harness the value of data living on the edge of their networks.
With Windows Embedded 8, Microsoft is also incorporating the same level of imagination as it did in the latest version of its desktop operating system. Partners and enterprises will benefit from many of the same features found in Windows 8—most notably, the use of touch and gesture, which will bring a richer, more natural experience to specialized devices such as POS systems, medical devices and in-car technology. With support for Visual Studio 2012, they can use their existing investments to build intelligent, seamless experiences that span a variety of platforms—from hardware to software and services.
The Windows Embedded 8 road map as laid out last fall includes the following:
Windows Embedded 8 Standard (General availability in March 2013): Windows Embedded 8 Standard is a flexible, modular, version of Windows 8 that gives enterprises and partners the freedom to choose which parts of the operating system they need for their unique requirements. Devices can also be locked down to block certain gestures and deliver a more secure and differentiated user experience.
Windows Embedded 8 Pro (General availability in March 2013): Like its predecessor, Windows 7 for Embedded Systems, Windows Embedded 8 Pro delivers the full power and familiarity of the Windows operating system. Enterprises and partners can create quick-turn, industry-certified solutions, without concern for application and device compatibility.
Windows Embedded 8 Industry (April 2013): Historically, Windows Embedded POSReady has targeted retail point-of-service (POS) solutions. Moving forward, Microsoft will deliver the power of Windows 8 technologies to these and other scenarios requiring fixed experiences with enhanced lockdown, branding and the other benefits of Windows Embedded 8—including peripheral support to other industry-specific scenarios, such as manufacturing and health care, in addition to POS.
Windows Embedded 8 Handheld: The next generation of Windows Embedded Handheld will be based on Windows Phone 8 technologies. Microsoft is working with a handful of partners to bring new features and capabilities to the enterprise handheld device market.
Windows Embedded 8 Automotive: Microsoft is working with a group of preselected partners on the next generation of Windows Embedded Automotive, which will be based on Windows 8 technologies.
"So we've talked about the Internet of Things, where you have all these machines and devices, and the notion of the intelligent system is the application of this Internet of Things," Dallas told eWEEK. "With this Windows 8 wave of products, we're executing on this vision."
Microsoft says intelligent systems are considered essential for the growth of today's enterprise. IDC forecasts the market for intelligent systems will exceed $1.4 trillion by 2016.