UPDATE: Windows Embedded Standard 7 Released
Microsoft on Tuesday announced the launch of Windows Embedded Standard 7 at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, Calif.
Kevin Dallas, general manager of Windows Embedded, announced at the event that Windows Embedded Standard 7 has been released to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Microsoft's OEM partners are currently using the customizable and componentized operating system, based on Windows 7, to build digital signage, industrial systems and thin-client computer devices.
The digital signage equipment is based on a prototype that Microsoft and Intel unveiled in January at the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo. The two-panel sign displays advertising in one pane and lets shoppers find items in a store via a second touch screen. The sign "looks" at the user and estimates their height and gender, displaying relevant products, such as clothing styles.
The sign uses "anonymous video analytics" to make its assessment of the viewer's face. It correctly guesses the right gender with about "70 percent accuracy," according to Ashwin Kulkarni, Microsoft's senior product manager for Windows Embedded. The analytics will only get better with time, he added.
Availability of Microsoft and Intel's sign platform will be announced at the Screenmedia Expo Europe 2010 event, which starts in London on May 5. Companies currently using Windows Embedded Standard 7 for digital signage hardware include "AOpen Inc., C-nario, DT Research Inc., Micro Industries Inc. and YCD Multimedia," according to Microsoft's announcement.
OEMs using Windows Embedded Standard 7 to build thin clients include Wyse Technology and Hewlett-Packard. HP has already built its t5740e Flexible Series to run Windows Embedded Standard 7.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 is being used by Heber Ltd. for industrial control systems. In addition, Microsoft partnered with Siemens on an "Innovative Production Line," which uses "the latest Windows Embedded Standard 7 technologies" to demonstrate connectivity throughout a factory floor, according to Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the OEM Division, in a blog post.
Microsoft currently has more than 500 Windows Embedded partners, according to Guggenheimer.
Microsoft also announced that it has integrated Windows Media Center into Windows Embedded Standard 7. This integration lets OEMs build devices such as set-top boxes with centralized multimedia content. Users can tap into services from broadcast TV or the Internet or they can access music, photos and videos in their personal multimedia libraries. A video produced by Microsoft shows how it works.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 will have a "bare minimum" code footprint size of about 400 MB to 500 MB, Kulkarni said, in a phone interview. He said it is difficult for Microsoft to tell OEMs what they will require. The total package required to run the embedded OS is determined by a static analyzer, which will indicate the run-time dependencies of the various Windows components and what needs to be added to the software image created by the OEM. On top of that, OEMs can use Visual Studio to build any embedded applications they will need for their appliance.
Microsoft provides details on Windows Embedded Standard 7 requirements in its white papers, which can be accessed here.
Devices based on Windows Embedded Standard 7, as part of Microsoft's overall Windows platform, can consume services from Windows Azure or Windows Live, Kulkarni said. In addition, they can leverage Windows management capabilities (such as Active Directory) or be managed through Microsoft System Center products.
Microsoft renamed its embedded OS product line to reflect Windows 7 branding back in February. In April, the company announced some organizational restructuring. Industrial-strength handsets using Windows Embedded Compact 7 (formerly known as Windows Embedded CE) now fall under the purview of the Windows Embedded Business group. This reorganization simplifies matters for OEMs since some of these devices had been managed under Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business group.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 will be available "in a few days," according to Microsoft. In the mean time, Microsoft has set up a Web form allowing OEMs to preorder evaluation kits of the digital signage platform, which can be accessed here.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.