A History of Building the Future

Redmond, Wash. — March 1, 2011 — Today most people hardly think twice about interacting with the touch screen of an ATM, using the GPS in their car or watching content from a connected TV. But there was a time not long ago when we could hardly imagine how we would interact with these and other devices on a daily basis.

Fifteen years ago, Microsoft fundamentally changed how we use and experience technology in our personal and working lives by bringing the world of Windows to embedded devices. The introduction of Windows Embedded CE, a real-time embedded operating system, opened the door for developers to imagine, create and deliver devices that make our world better, more efficient and user-friendly. When the first Windows CE 1.0 handheld PC — the NEC MobilePro 200 — was introduced in 1996, it launched a whole new era of devices and connections.

From that point on, Microsoft has led the embedded market, creating software platforms, services and tools for developers, designers and their OEM partners to produce small-footprint, rich, connected devices for a wide variety of industries from consumer electronics and healthcare to manufacturing and retail and countless more. Today Microsoft continues to define and shape the way the embedded industry builds devices, releasing the next generation of the Windows Embedded CE platform, Windows Embedded Compact 7.

“Microsoft has always focused on ushering in the next breakthrough in computing technology, from the first microcomputers to today’s embedded devices,” said Dan Javnozon, a group manager with Windows Embedded at Microsoft. “By extending beyond and providing the ability to connecting back to the PC, servers and services, Windows Embedded makes it easy for OEMs to envision and build new types of devices that are intuitive for users in the home, on the road or at work.”

The first embedded platform from Microsoft, Windows CE 1.0, was designed from the ground up to give embedded developers the ability to extend the sophisticated software environment of the personal computer into the embedded world. Other major milestones, such as bringing Windows CE.NET to market, allowed developers to build Microsoft.NET-enabled devices that could deliver Microsoft’s vision of making information available at any time, any place and on any device. And now the next great milestone in the advancement of embedded devices is the release of Windows Embedded Compact 7. This powerful, next-generation platform supports Microsoft’s latest technology innovations bringing the power of Microsoft Silverlight to embedded developers with the Silverlight for Windows Embedded user interface framework for creating attractive, intuitive applications and devices.

The demand for Windows Embedded devices has been fueled by one of the largest partner ecosystems spanning the globe. OEM partners such as HP, NEC and Siemens; semiconductor intellectual property providers such as ARM; silicon vendors such as Intel, Freescale and TI; systems integrators such as Adeneo, Phytec and MPC Data; distributors such as Avnet, Advantech and Synnex; and independent software vendors such as Intrinsyc and Strong Union have worked together to create unique and industry-changing devices built on Windows Embedded platforms.

Take Beckhoff Automation, for example. The industrial automation luminary has been using Windows Embedded platforms to drive the technological convergence between IT and automation technology. Beckhoff recently created an automated robot, built on Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded Compact 7 and Silverlight for Windows Embedded. Controlled by a touch-screen human-machine interface panel running Windows Embedded Compact 7, the robot provides manufacturers with the versatility and support they need to be able to deliver cost-efficient industrial solutions.

“Embedded devices are present everywhere in the field of industrial automation, from windmills to everyday household fixtures such as showerheads,” said Stefan Hoppe, product manager, Beckhoff Automation, and president, OPC Europe. “Windows Embedded Compact 7, through unique features such as multicore support and a scalable user interface, helps us bring our visions of automation to life.”

Microsoft continues to dedicate itself to making developers’ and designers’ lives easier by providing the platforms and tools they need to think big. And they have. Today, using Windows Embedded Compact 7, developers and designers have the latest technological innovations to not only conceive but create whatever they might dream up in speech, touch or multitouch technology. OEMs such as HP and Wyse Technology are using Windows Embedded Compact 7 to bring fully interactive and immersive cloud-based experiences to a new generation of thin client devices.

The types and kinds of devices being built on Windows Embedded platforms continue to grow and become more diverse. Since the inception of the Windows Embedded business, Microsoft has worked closely with ARM to ensure that Windows Embedded CE, and now Windows Embedded Compact 7, has support for the latest ARM architecture. With more than 70 validated processors and millions of shipping devices based on the technology, ARM is a leading architecture for Windows Embedded CE and Windows Embedded Compact 7.

“The release of Windows Embedded Compact 7 demonstrates Microsoft’s continued innovation and investment to provide a leading software platform for ARM-based devices,” said Gary Atkinson, director of Embedded, ARM.

A 15-year timeline shows the history and important milestones of the Windows Embedded CE platform up through the next generation and most recent release of the software, Windows Embedded Compact 7.

What began as a simple but powerful idea to extend the sophistication of software from PC to devices has spawned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Windows CE and Windows Embedded Compact designs in the market today. In the big scheme of things, 15 years is not a long time, but when you look at the impact that embedded devices have had on the world around us, it is impossible to escape. You can hardly watch broadcast television or go online without seeing advertisements for countless devices ranging from connected appliances to e-readers. Embedded devices have become a mainstream staple in how we consume, access and use technology at home and at work. Microsoft and Windows Embedded, through the Windows Embedded CE and Windows Embedded Compact 7 platforms, have created a foundation for the future of devices and changed our view and use of technology forever.

Check out the latest Windows Embedded happenings on the Windows Embedded News Center, and follow our Twitter handle @MSFTWEB for real-time updates.

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