REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 1, 2001 — Not long ago, most people wouldnt have even imagined that the World Wide Web could be delivered over their wireless telephone. Today, Internet access is fast becoming a standard feature on practically all mobile computing appliances.
This is just one of the vast possibilities laid open by technology that gives devices richer functionality and greater communication. What gives these devices their brainpower is an embedded operating system, such as the Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded platforms from Microsoft.
In much the same way that Windows-embedded devices are starting to work more closely together, Microsoft is building closer ties among its extended community of embedded systems developers, partners and customers through the companys Embedded Ecosystem initiative. Launched last fall, the initiative includes Web-based technical and marketing resources for all three groups as well as new opportunities for hands-on learning about Microsofts embedded offerings.
Next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Microsoft will host the first in a series of Windows Embedded Developer Conferences featuring technical sessions on the entire family of Microsoft embedded technologies. PressPass spoke with Bill Veghte, vice president of the Embedded Appliance Platform Group (EAPG) at Microsoft, to learn more about the conference and how smart devices figure into the Microsoft .NET strategy.
PressPass: What can attendees expect at next weeks Windows Embedded Developers Conference?
Veghte: Microsoft is bringing back and expanding this conference after a one-year hiatus. While our previous embedded systems conferences focused mainly on Windows CE developers, this year were bringing together people who write applications for all types of embedded devices, from Windows CE to Windows NT Embedded and server appliances. Theyll receive in-depth information about the latest features of the Windows CE 3.0 and NT Embedded operating systems as well as hear about the future roadmap for enabling smart devices. In addition, application developers will learn about Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework.
Unlike other industry gatherings where Microsoft is just one of many participants, developers at this conference will be able to drill down to a much deeper technical level on all the aspects of Windows CE and NT Embedded in sessions about such areas as Windows CE driver development and the Whistler Embedded Architecture. More than 50 of Microsofts embedded developers will be there to answer questions and help developers work with these products in a variety of hands-on sessions.
PressPass: How are these conferences strategic to Microsofts vision and objectives for the embedded space?
Veghte: Its an opportunity for Microsoft to give all of our embedded developers a detailed roadmap of Microsofts vision for smart devices and the opportunity .NET represents for them. As we look toward the future, enabling user experiences that transcend the PC to devices is crucial. For example, you want to be able to access your contacts not only on your PC but also on your cell phone, PDA (personal digital assistant) and possibly even in your car. The key to accomplishing this is creating smarter devices.
PressPass: What is the role of EAPG in advancing the Microsoft .NET vision?
Veghte: The .NET vision is all about creating a platform for empowering applications, services and smart devices to work together — enabling access to information and the ability to act upon it any time, any place and from any device. Smart devices are central to enabling this vision, and EAPG provides the operating system platform upon which developers can build smart devices.
Weve gone from having what I would characterize as islands of devices — which werent connected either to a back-end or to each other — to having those devices become connected to either the Internet, other devices or a back-end system. For example, where you used to have an industrial control application running on a factory floor in relative isolation, now that same control can connect to a server or some type of back-end system that allows a user to watch that whole factory floor process and tell in real time whats happening on that factory floor — how many good widgets have been made versus how many have failed the quality test.
PressPass: What signs are you seeing that point to increased adoption of Windows Embedded technologies among customers, partners and developers?
Veghte: We’ve seen tremendous adoption of our family of products among the world’s leading OEMs, including six new Windows-powered devices unveiled at last months Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In fact, during his keynote address at the show, Bill Gates demonstrated a wearable Internet appliance made by Hitachi that allows users to browse the Web and receive e-mail hands-free. Its the first of a whole new class of smart devices designed to give people more mobility and flexibility in how they access information. Some other innovative designs on Windows CE and Windows NT Embedded include Siemens AG using Windows CE in its SIMATIC human machine interface products, and Nortels deployment of NT Embedded for its small-business communications devices. We are very excited about the customer adoption we are seeing and expect the momentum we’ve experienced in the past nine months to grow even stronger in the year ahead.
PressPass: Since EAPG was formed last April, the group has kicked off several new initiatives. How have Microsofts developers, partners and customers responded to these programs?
Veghte: The response has been fantastic. The overall message were hearing is that our customers and partners are feeling much better informed and more involved with whats happening with Windows Embedded and are very pleased with the business model changes that we have made. With the increased flexibility in our business model, revamped pricing and broad availability of evaluation copies of all of our Windows Embedded development tools, customers are able to easily test and prototype their devices. In addition, the launches of the Windows Embedded Partner program and the developer center on the Microsoft Developer Network have enabled partners to quickly get up to speed on our products.
From a product standpoint, we have also seen some good momentum. The feedback on Windows CE 3.0, which was released to manufacturing in June, has been very good. Customers are pleased with its rich multimedia and Internet functionality along with the real-time support capabilities. In December, we also hit another milestone with the release of Beta 1 of
the next embedded version of Windows 2000. So the new division has really been moving quickly.
PressPass: What are some of the greatest challenges that embedded systems developers, partners and customers face in terms of communicating and collaborating?
Veghte: As we move into a world where users’ experiences transcend the PC and become possible on a wider variety of devices, one of the greatest challenges developers face is enabling their designs to participate in this world of smart devices. No longer is it simply about bringing up the device itself, but also the rich applications and services that are enabled on a device. Agility is also becoming increasingly important. Time to market is key as developers race to introduce innovative new devices and update their existing products in order to remain competitive in the embedded space.
PressPass: What role will Microsoft have in shaping the future of smart devices?
Veghte: Microsoft is making significant investments around smart devices at the platform, device and user experience levels. Smart devices are central to enabling the .NET vision, and Microsoft is committed to providing both the platform and tools to enable developers to easily create smart devices. With future versions of Microsoft Windows Embedded platforms, developers will be able to easily create smart devices.