Windows NT Embedded 4.0: The Advent of the PC-Plus Era

SAN JOSE, Calif., Sept. 27, 1999 — Microsoft Lead Product Manager Vince Mendillo couldn’t have imagined how quickly the release of Windows NT Embedded 4.0 would change the PC-Plus landscape. But today, only seven weeks after the new platform became publicly available, more than 20 original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) are demonstrating devices built upon Windows NT Embedded 4.0 at the Embedded Systems Conference West in San Jose, Calif. These new OEM designs span a wide range of market segments, including telecommunications, retail, office automation, health care and manufacturing.

In the spirit of Microsoft’s vision of empowering people through great software, anytime, anywhere, and on any device, Windows NT Embedded 4.0 is the newest in the family of Windows products. Windows NT Embedded 4.0 provides an open and extensible platform that includes rich system services, standard Win32 APIs, and access to a wealth of off-the-shelf software applications, as well as hardware and device drivers. Thus, developers can choose which parts of the operating system their device requires, yet still benefit from the flexibility and extensibility of the Windows platform.

Historically, embedded systems vendors have developed closed solutions based on fragmented and proprietary operating systems, resulting in lengthy design times.

“One of the key strengths of Windows NT Embedded 4.0 is reduced time to market,”
Mendillo said.
“But I can’t tell you how surprised I was when an OEM vendor called me and told me that they had built their complete componentized OS in one day, and had it up and running the next. Talk about return on investment!”

Who Benefits from Windows NT Embedded 4.0?

Windows NT Embedded 4.0 was built from the ground up to ease the development process for developers of devices in the telecommunications, retail, office automation, health care and manufacturing markets. But end-users benefit as well. From ticket kiosks that deliver quicker movie tickets to medical devices that allow doctors to check the status of tests via the Web, more and more intelligent devices improve our lives every day. Windows NT Embedded 4.0 is helping deliver these devices more rapidly than was ever thought possible, furthering the PC-Plus era.

What is the difference between Windows NT Embedded and Windows CE?

The vendor should always choose the best technology for their customer or solution. In all cases, Microsoft wants to provide a Windows based solution that will be the best choice.

For solutions with very small footprint requirements, disconnected states, non-X86 processors, Windows CE is the obvious choice, and for those requiring the capabilities of the full Win32 APIs, security, rich protocol support, Windows NT Embedded would be the better selection. However, there will also be a class of applications where either Windows NT Embedded or Windows CE can do the job equally well. In those cases, a number of factors may play a role in deciding which technology to use. For example, form factor, feature set, the underlying platform architecture, and memory requirements may play key roles in the decision process.

Windows NT Embedded 4.0 will continue to gather momentum as intelligent devices become more prevalent in our homes and offices. In fact, International Data Corp. numbers support this, showing 100 percent CAGR growth over the last 3 years in the embedded space, and projecting this growth to continue through at least 2003 — ensuring that Mendillo and others will continue to marvel at rate at which the PC-Plus era is ushered in.

Solutions Showcase :
General availability of Windows NT Embedded 4.0 was announced on August 9, 1999. Since then, OEMs have been able to finalize designs that were prototyped and tested during the beta and release candidate process. The 12 solutions highlighted below illustrate the diversity of ISV support for fixed function devices that can be built upon Windows NT Embedded 4.0.

BlueWater Systems Inc.

MicroVu’s precision measuring system, running Windows NT Embedded and USB, provides a robust solution for inspection and quality control. Windows NT Embedded gives the system its functionality and, with its familiar Win32 interface, reduces development costs. With BlueWater Systems’ USB Extension, many USB features such as Plug-and-Play become available to Windows NT Embedded. Plug-and-Play lets users add or remove peripheral devices without having to shut down or restart their system. Companies can reduce their time to market for their embedded solutions by using USB and Windows NT Embedded.

Bill Kyle, BlueWater Systems Inc., (425) 771-3610,

Cell Computing Inc.

Cell Computing manufactures the world’s smallest Pentium and Pentium II motherboards for embedded network server, telecom, medical and portable applications. Cell’s award winning Plug-N-Run and CardPC Systems-On-A-Module provide OEMs with highly scalable, ultra-compact platforms on which to build completely custom, high-end embedded systems in a matter of weeks, with minimal up-front cost and risk.

Dave Cowan, Cell Computing, (408) 967-8800,

Cimetrix Inc.

Cimetrix’s CODE Software allows mechanism and robot suppliers to replace their proprietary controllers with the open and easily customized technology found in Windows NT Embedded. CODE software allows customers to create robot applications, test them in a simulation environment and then run them on an actual robot with no coding translations. The software provides complete control of the robot and the surrounding workcell including motion planning, trajectory generation, I/O sequencing and database/host/Internet connection.

With Windows NT Embedded, customers enjoy tremendous TCO savings. Traditionally, users of robots built on proprietary systems had to pay the exorbitantly high hidden costs of maintenance and training on unfamiliar, nonintuitive systems. In addition, these proprietary systems are notoriously hard to tie into a plant’s existing IT infrastructure. With a solution built on the Windows NT Embedded operating system, customers benefit from a better, more familiar GUI and the ability to expand and customize the system with third-party products. In addition, the small footprint of Windows NT Embedded translates to minimized hardware costs, resulting in significant additional savings for the end customer.

Dave Faulkner, Cimetrix Inc. (801) 256-6500,

General Software

Embedded BIOS enables Windows NT Embedded developers to have a robust operating environment across a wide range of leading CPUs and chipsets targeted for embedded applications. Using the Embedded BIOS Adaptation Kit, the developer can rapidly bring up a board and configure the BIOS firmware. Over 400 BIOS options can be set without editing source code using the Adaptation Kit’s BIOStart expert system and knowledge base. In addition, the new On-Line Adaptation Kit allows a developer to configure a custom BIOS using the Internet! Simply by connecting to , a registered user can make over 200 modifications to standard reference BIOSes provided by General Software.

Embedded BIOS reduces time to market for a Windows NT Embedded developer by simplifying board-level firmware. The amount of time saved by Embedded BIOS can be measured in project man-years – during the time-critical stage of early design and hardware production. Embedded BIOS optimizes the perfomance of the Windows NT Embedded application by enabling the developer to configure the firmware level exactly to the system’s specifications. Embedded BIOS also addresses the demands of the embedded marketplace by enabling the OEM developer to run Windows NT Embedded on highly customized and unique hardware platforms.

Todd Curry, General Software, (425) 454-5755,

Manufacturing Data Systems Inc.

As the only production-proven, unbundled, open-architecture software computer numeric control on the market, OpenCNC from Manufacturing Data Systems Inc. (MDSI) has already revolutionized the CNC industry by proving that manufacturers can control a complete range of CNC machine tools entirely from software. Unlike traditional, hardware-based CNCs, OpenCNC uses no proprietary hardware or motion control cards. The entire control is delivered on a CD. OpenCNC on Windows NT gives manufacturers unprecedented access to real-time machine data, machine performance results and remote machine diagnostics.

OpenCNC with Windows NT Embedded provides the same rich functionality in a small footprint for unique applications where space is at a premium or where high shock and vibration make a hard drive impractical. OpenCNC on Windows NT Embedded continues MDSI’s mission of providing maximum flexibility and choice to customers and continuous improvements in CNC technology via modular, scalable, open-architecture software.

Margaret Sharemet, MDSI, (734) 327-8246,

PC Soft International

PC Soft International’s Unity software architecture is a scalable solution for embedding the Internet in industrial automation monitoring software. Unity publishes data from devices for remote viewing across the plant floor, or across the Web, all with the same look and feel, but with no specialized client side software other than standard Web browsers. Windows NT Embedded is a critical component of the solution because it can scale to bridge the gap between low-end and high-end devices. In addition, Windows NT Embedded allows manufacturers to have tighter control over the configuration of the user interface, much more so than is available with standard Windows NT. A critical requirement of all industrial software is reliability, and Windows NT Embedded’s support of solid state memory instead of rotating disk media enhances its reliability in mission-critical applications.

Bill Thompson, PC Soft International, (507) 337-9200,

Quad Research

Quad Research’s Stratas was designed specifically for the telecommunication and Web-hosting markets as a fixed-function device. It is a fault-tolerant Telco Grade server that has two single board computers with dual Pentium III CPUs in a rack-mounted case. Using integrated Fibre Channel hard drives and proprietary controller technology in a cPCI format, it delivers over 100 million Internet page views per day. The Stratas was awarded Best of Show at the Networld+Interop trade show in 1998.

Similar in design, Quad Research’s MovieServ System can host up to 14 dual Pentium III single board computers in a rack-mounted chassis to deliver high-quality streaming multimedia or video on demand to any network or cable TV system. The system was developed as a small-footprint, fully integrated solution for Microsoft NetShow TM Theater Server software. The current market is for corporate training and movies on demand in the hospitality industry.

Robert Arnon, Quad Research,

Signature Technologies

STI is the world’s first and only provider of networked public information display systems that manufactures its own displays and also builds, installs and supports networks of displays using Windows NT Embedded. These display units are increasingly used where graphics-rich content is necessary to broadcast a message, such as airports and convention centers. Windows NT Embedded reduces Signature Technologies’ time to market by a) shortening design time, b) simplifying the requirements for new code, and c) giving tremendous flexibility to designers and engineers. With Windows NT Embedded, Signature Technologies’ display screens have an operating system that provides only the necessary functionality, optimized to a small footprint to minimize hardware costs. For Signature Technologies’ customers, this translates to receiving new, innovative display products in less time, while also vastly simplifying product software upgrade paths and platform compatibility

Barry Puritz, Signature Technologies, (917) 453-0311,

ST Microelectronics

ST Microelectronics’ STPC Industrial computer is the ideal platform for a broad range of applications ranging from Thin Client terminals, Information Kiosks, Information Appliances, POS Terminals, Vending Machines, and Industrial Hand-held Terminals. ST Microelectronics’ STPC Industrial provides complete functionality to the embedded developer while minimizing the component costs of the finished product. As a result of their modular design and reliance on common, off-the-shelf hardware, customers build embedded designs with a total BOM cost of less than $100.

The modularity and scalability of the platform is perfectly complemented by the modularity and scalability of Windows NT Embedded. By choosing only the components necessary for a particular design, customers can minimize the computational overhead and footprint needed by the operating system. As a result, Windows NT Embedded and the STPC Industrial work together to provide a highly customizable, robust platform that enables developers to quickly bring their embedded designs to market.

Colin Long, ST Microelectronics,


StorLogic’s new line of Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances combines superior performance with plug-and-play simplicity and manageability to deliver truly optimized server functionality and productivity. In order to lower TCO, StorLogic’s NAS appliances install in less than five minutes, require very little maintenance, and can be managed easily and remotely, via a Web browser. The multiclient connectivity and high-capacity storage provided by the Windows NT Embedded operating system allow heterogeneous users to easily share and manage data over the network. StorLogic’s NAS solutions perform efficiently, robustly and cost-effectively.

Steve Paulhus, Storlogic, (407) 261-8977,

Xycom Automation

Xycom Automation is the leading supplier of industrial PCs to the factory automation marketplace. The use of Windows NT Embedded in their products offers three key advantages to industrial automation customers. First, eliminating the hard disk significantly improves the reliability of industrial PC products that are subject to harsh factory environments high shock and vibration. By selecting the portions of the Windows NT operating system needed to run an application, the overall storage size can be reduced, and the application can be easily placed in a compact flash storage system. The second key advantage is the reduction in drive and memory requirements, which helps lower the overall system cost. Finally, customizing Windows NT Embedded to the requirements of the application minimizes the range of application software that can be subsequently loaded onto the system, thus providing a level of control and stability in the application platform.

Steve Crass, Xycom Automation, (330) 283-4128,

Ziatech Corp.

Ziatech’s small, embedded computing blade combines an Intel Pentium II processor (mobile module), a core set of embedded computing peripherals, and Microsoft Windows NT Embedded loaded in CompactFlash memory. The Windows NT Embedded Computing Blade provides highly reliable and headless operation in an extremely small system footprint for telecommunications and Internet infrastructure equipment. The blade’s CompactPCI architecture uniquely provides major telecom and Internet equipment manufacturers with maximum performance and a flexible migration path. Windows NT Embedded enhances this platform with rich functionality and scalability in a small operating system that is easily and quickly implemented for diskless applications.

The CompactPCI technology at the heart of the Computing Blade is optimized for supporting Windows NT Embedded. Like Windows NT Embedded, it is designed with a core set of enabling features that help it to be quickly integrated into embedded computing equipment. While Windows NT Embedded requires very little logical memory space, the Computing Blade requires little physical space, which is critical for telecom and Internet equipment in central office or co-hosting locations, where space is at a premium.

Pete Holmes, Ziatech Corp., (805) 541-0488,

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