Microsoft Presents Strategy for Embedded and Appliance Products at WinHEC 2000

NEW ORLEANS, April 25, 2000 — All around us, small, unobtrusive programs and circuits are making our lives better. They save us time and keep us informed. They advance science and medicine. They create conveniences unheard of a decade ago. And they can take credit for much of our unprecedented economic productivity. Yet, few people give them much thought. These humble helpers are called embedded systems, and they power every kind of limited-purpose electronic device you can think of.

Bill Gates talks on an Internet phone with John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc., during his keynote presentation at WinHEC 2000, where the companies announced Internet phone applications that use Windows 2000 technology.

Retail terminals, mobile handhelds, industrial automation devices and global positioning system (GPS) receivers all run on embedded systems. Until recently, most embedded systems developers programmed proprietary code to power such devices. Increased demand for devices that participate on a network and the Internet, devices that deliver more applications and services, coupled with the pressure to deliver solutions to market faster, have caused developers to turn to commercial operating systems — such as Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded — as foundations for their custom solutions.

Microsoft, the second-largest solution provider in the embedded market, presented its strategy for Windows embedded and appliance products and services at its annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC 2000) in New Orleans. The new strategy centers on giving developers more powerful and more customizable platforms, as well as a top-to-bottom selection of services and technologies for embedded systems. Microsoft officials also announced the impending availability of Windows CE 3.0, and released early evaluation copies of the new Windows CE Platform Builder 3.0 to WinHEC attendees.

“We are entering a new era of the PC, the ‘PC Plus’ era. This will be a time when we see an amazing proliferation of small, connected devices that will be commonly used at home and at work,
“said Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, who addressed more than 3,000 developers, engineers and product planners at today’s conference.”
Microsoft’s Windows embedded technologies are increasingly important to developers who need to provide access to information through their applications, across an array of smart devices.”

Changing Market Moves Toward Intelligent Appliances

The traditional PC marketplace is expanding as more single-purpose devices come to the fore. In the consumer sector, for example, these take the form of
“intelligent appliances”
such as Pocket PCs, Internet access devices and Web-enabled cell phones. Embedded systems, on the other hand, are facing a more connected customer base — whether via corporate networks, the Internet or wireless technologies — which is driving demand for devices that are more compatible with other systems. In addition, hardware for appliances has become inexpensive and universally available, forcing developers to differentiate their products with richer functionality.

So, from a broad perspective, the PC and embedded systems industries are converging. With the increased demand for intelligent appliances, developers are facing shorter development cycles, an emphasis on feature-rich services, and the need to incorporate more connectivity and compatibility with other systems. As a result, developers are increasingly turning to commercial products for preconfigured components they can quickly assemble as the foundation of their embedded system.

Windows: Not Just for Desktops and Servers

Microsoft offers two products that serve as the core of its embedded offerings — the Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded operating systems, which are designed to power the full spectrum of embedded systems.

Windows NT Embedded typically provides the foundation for high-end, interconnected, feature-rich solutions such as PBX switches and routers, small business servers and large medical devices. Windows CE, on the other hand, is targeted at connected, 32-bit client devices with memory-footprint constraints such as cellular phones, handheld computers, scanning equipment or machine consoles.

According to Bill Veghte, vice president of the newly-formed Embedded and Appliance Platform Group at Microsoft, the strength of Windows-powered embedded solutions is that they not only deliver a rich platform for embedded applications and services, but they also provide the familiar Win32 programming model, interact seamlessly with other Windows platforms and are compatible with Microsoft applications and services.

Microsoft today revealed the steps it is taking to focus its efforts in the embedded space and, in a nutshell, give developers what they need to build better embedded systems, faster. The company’s three-part strategy consists of further enhancing Windows platforms for the embedded environment, implementing a flexible
“àla carte menu”
of Microsoft technologies and services, and reorienting Microsoft’s internal structure and development practices to better serve customers.

“Every element of this strategy is a response to the needs of developers in today’s supercharged connected device industry,”
Veghte said.
“The Embedded and Appliance Platform Group is committed to helping its customers bring their inventions to market by offering the best platforms, extensive services and greater flexibility than we’ve ever offered before.”

An Adaptable, Scalable Platforms for 32-bit Devices

The foundation of Microsoft’s strategy is to deliver the embedded platforms its customers need to build great devices, from simple data-collection tools to full-featured Web terminals. Microsoft will continue to enhance and extend Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded as adaptable, scalable platforms for 32-bit connected devices, offering flexible solutions for a wide range of customer needs.

Windows CE version 3.0, scheduled to be available in June, features improved real-time support, which allows systems to prioritize and act upon hundreds of tasks quickly; DCOM for Windows CE, for integrating Windows CE-based devices into distributed computing networks; and enhanced Internet support with a new HTTP server that supports scriptable and interactive Web pages.

Furthermore, Windows CE 3.0 is much more modular than ever before. The new Windows CE development environment — Platform Builder 3.0 — provides a more detailed selection of Windows CE system capabilities to include in a device’s platform. This allows developers to produce leaner code that is better tailored to the precise functions of the embedded system.

“When customers start to consider building a device or appliance, they’re also asking whether they can create a customized operating system that delivers just the functionality they need — no more, no less,”
Veghte said.
“Version 3.0 allows developers to be more selective when they choose system capabilities.”

In the second quarter of this year, Microsoft will also release the Windows 2000 Appliance Kit, for use in server appliances that require services and functionality available only in Windows 2000.

A Flexible Menu of Technologies and Services

Microsoft’s participation in the embedded systems market is not limited to supplying powerful platforms; the company also offers an array of solutions available to embedded systems developers. These include infrastructure technologies such as the component object model (COM) and Windows Media Technologies, embedded operating systems and toolkits, applications such as Web browsers and games, and services such as those Microsoft provides for WebTV and MSN properties.

Microsoft is embracing a new flexible menu of technologies and services for embedded systems. Customers and partners can now collaborate with Microsoft for any combination of products and services — from infrastructure technologies to embedded operating systems, applications and services.

Streamlined Internal Processes and a Unified Organization

Microsoft recently created the Embedded and Appliance Platform Group to respond to this fast-growing and changing industry. The group brings together the Windows CE, Windows NT Embedded and server appliances teams under one organizational roof. This structure allows the formerly disparate teams to unify their resources, business objectives and practices — presenting customers with one
for Microsoft embedded products and services.

“We see rapid growth in the appliance and embedded marketplace, and this new division is set up to focus on delivering the tools, technologies and business models that this marketplace demands,”
Veghte said.
“This change reflects our overall strategy and greater focus on the embedded and appliance space.”

Customers Value Familiar Interface, Rich Features of Windows Platforms

At this year’s WinHEC, several developers highlighted some of the benefits they’ve experienced from using Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded.

ThermoGenesis Corp., which develops medical equipment for the manufacture and preservation of biopharmaceuticals derived from blood, has been using Windows NT Embedded as the foundation of its embedded systems.

“When we first found out about Windows NT Embedded, we knew right away it was just what we needed,”
said Jim Hobbs, software engineer at ThermoGenesis.
“Because the Windows NT environment was familiar territory, developing the primary system was almost a no-brainer. We could focus on building the applications without the side work of creating the system-level capabilities.”

Hobbs also cited Windows compatibility, security and connectivity in Windows NT Embedded as fundamental requirements for ThermoGenesis systems.
“Just today I received a call from a customer in Japan,”
he said.
“Thanks to the connectivity components in Windows NT Embedded, I could dial up that system and diagnose the problem on the spot.”

Intelligraphics Inc., a developer of custom system software, device drivers and embedded systems, uses Windows CE to support its customers’ point-of-sale (POS) and television set-top box systems.

“Windows CE’s strength is in its rich feature set,”
said Stuart Sikes, vice president of sales and marketing at Intelligraphics.
“For example, the POS hardware environment is a great fit for Windows CE because you’ve got a smaller footprint, fewer resources to manage and maintain than with a full-blown workstation, and a lower license fee, but a lot of the functionality you need for an in-store display. Plus, we’ve found Windows CE to be a very easy environment to work in.”

Veghte says that developers can expect more services, tools and enhancements as the market for embedded products grows.
“Our ambitious commitment to the embedded systems industry means that we’ll keep on asking our customers what they need and then provide great solutions,”
he said.
“We’re ready — more than ever — to help our partners and customers bring the next generation of embedded systems to life.”

Related Posts