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Microsoft Windows Embedded operating systems
21 September 2005, Computer/Embedded Technology

The 'Windows Embedded' family of operating systems from Microsoft includes Windows CE, Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS) and Windows XP Embedded - Embedded Server OS will not be discussed in this article.

Windows CE is built from the ground up for small-footprint devices, while Windows XP Embedded is a componentised version of the Windows XP Professional operating system. Windows Embedded for Point of Service is a standard, retail-optimised operating system platform designed for retail point-of-service systems.

The Windows Embedded products provide embedded developers with the flexibility to select the operating system that is right for their embedded projects. These operating systems enable greater developer productivity as well as faster time-to-market for original equipment manufacturers and embedded developers seeking to address the demand for specialised and embedded devices.

With its strong commitment to the Windows Embedded family, Microsoft provides embedded developers and OEMs the flexibility to choose between embedded operating systems that are designed for different types of embedded designs. While each operating system is optimised to meet a particular device's requirements and platform needs, partnering with the Windows Embedded family offers benefits that include: a proven track record, a powerful end-to-end development environment, realtime support, a vibrant ecosystem of partners, a thriving developer community, and the strength of the 'Windows Powered' brand.

Windows CE 5.0

Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 is an open, scalable, 32-bit OS that integrates reliable, realtime capabilities with advanced Windows technologies. Windows CE allows the user to build a wide range of innovative, small footprint devices. A typical Windows CE-based device is designed for a specific use, often runs disconnected from other computers, and requires a small OS that has a deterministic response to interrupts.

Examples include enterprise tools, such as industrial controllers, communications hubs, and point-of-sale terminals, and consumer products such as Internet appliances, ticketing machines and kiosks.

With a complete OS feature set and comprehensive development tools, Windows CE contains the functionality needed to build, debug, and deploy custom Windows CE-based devices. Platform Builder for Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 is a fully-integrated development environment (IDE) for building a custom Windows CE OS and components for embedded system devices.

Windows CE enhances productivity by including a production-quality OEM Adaptation Layer (OAL). This OAL provides OEMs with an improved level of OAL componentisation through code libraries, directory structures that support code re-use, centralised configuration files, and a consistent architecture across processor families and hardware platforms. It also includes production-quality device drivers that use less hardware platform-specific code than previous drivers, abstract all resource assignments to the registry, and create re-usable, hardware platform-independent libraries. These libraries work without modification for many of the common hardware platforms, which reduces the customisation required for the drivers to function on custom hardware.

Windows CE brings enhanced productivity to application developers by providing a rich set of programming tools to create managed code and native code applications for Windows CE-based devices. Windows CE offers application developers the versatile environment of the Microsoft Win32 application programming interface (API) along with the ease and versatility of scripting languages. It also offers bundled support for multimedia, the Internet, LANs, and mobile communications and security services.

Windows CE is also the only member of the Embedded family to provide support for processors other than X86, such as ARM and XScale.

Windows XP Embedded

Windows XP Embedded is a componentised version of Windows XP Professional that contains all of the features, functionality, and familiarity of Windows XP Professional. Windows XP Embedded enables one to rapidly develop reliable and full-featured connected devices. By supporting standard hardware and software, Windows XP Embedded makes it easier and less expensive to build a run-time image.

Windows XP Embedded delivers industry-leading reliability, security, and performance along with the latest multimedia, and Web browsing capabilities as well as power management and device support. It also incorporates the latest embedded-enabling capabilities such as headless support, and flexible boot and storage options. With a 32-bit computing architecture and a fully protected memory model, performance is further enhanced with accelerated boot and log-on, and local and network security is fully implemented.

Standard, off-the-shelf x86 hardware components can be used in Windows XP Embedded-based designs. In addition, because it supports the MS Win32 application programming interface (API), Win32 applications, drivers, or services can be used in embedded designs with little or no porting required. Familiar application development tools like Microsoft's Visual Studio can be used to build embedded applications quickly. Microsoft .NET Framework can also be included in a run-time image, so that managed code can be run on the device.

Windows XP Embedded makes it easy to start a design. When a tools-only or tools and database configuration is selected for installation, the development tools called 'Windows Embedded Studio', component database, and repositories are all installed.

The first step in creating the custom platform is to run Target Analyzer, which analyses your hardware and generates a base OS configuration that supports your chosen hardware. Next, select from one of the Design Templates or drag and drop individual components into your custom image. To create components for the unique applications or drivers specific to your design, use Component Designer to convert them into a component that can be easily added to the customised OS configuration. Once you have created your platform and added in any additional components, you are ready to begin debugging. After you have finished debugging you are ready to build your custom OS image and download it onto your device.

Windows Embedded for Point-of-Service

Point-of-service terminals, such as point-of-sale terminals, information kiosks, or self-checkout systems, used by a wide range of retail and hospitality companies to process and record purchase transactions, are familiar fixtures of any shopping experience. They are also increasingly used to enable realtime reporting of sales and inventory data, allow enterprises to streamline supply chains, accelerate self-service transactions, and reduce the cost of deploying and maintaining a retail IT infrastructure.

Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS), is a standard, retail-optimised operating system platform designed for retail point-of-service systems. Based on the technologies available in Windows XP Embedded with Service Pack 2, it is a key component of the Microsoft Smarter Retailing Initiative.

As the first Microsoft operating system designed specifically for point-of-service systems used by retail and hospitality organisations, WEPOS will deliver at the point-of-sale and beyond. It offers the following advantages to retail and hospitality organisations:

Ease of use: WEPOS is the first point-of-service operating system platform to provide plug-and-play peripheral support. Extending standard desktop PC plug-and-play support to retail device peripherals, this will enable retailers to quickly install and integrate current and legacy retail device peripherals into a point-of-service system. The platform also offers a standard platform optimised for retail and hospitality applications and familiar device management technologies.

Empowerment: WEPOS also empowers retailers to create the most compelling customer interactions by providing a standard, retail-optimised platform that includes the required retail-specific technologies, and full support for standard retail applications and device peripherals.

Lower life-cycle costs: WEPOS provides low retail point-of-service life-cycle costs by decreasing OS and application development costs, deployment costs, servicing and maintenance costs, and point-of-service hardware costs while providing the longest published product support life cycle for point-of-service systems.

WEPOS has a smaller operating system footprint than the standard Windows XP Professional and can be installed on new and existing point-of-service systems. The baseline hardware requirements are most likely met by even previous-generation hardware, ie, 233 MHz PII processor; 64 MB RAM; 280 MB storage.

* Compiled from information provided by Microsoft.


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