Microsoft offers Windows embedded hardware bundle

Microsoft has created a program for electronics manufacturers that combines basic hardware with Windows CE .Net or Windows XP Embedded to entice more vendors to try Windows for new products, the company announced Monday.

Under the new Windows Embedded Evaluation Hardware Kitting Program, electronics makers can get Windows CE .Net or Windows XP preloaded on the board they use at the heart of a new product, Microsoft said. Before, the manufacturers would have to load the software onto the hardware themselves.

Additionally, electronics companies can build as many as 1,000 units of the product without having to pay a software licensing fee. They will also get the Windows Embedded Evaluation Toolkit, said Debby Fry Wilson, director of Microsoft's Embedded and Appliance Platform Group.

"You get the (operating system) and the tools for free; in addition, you get to build a device image and deploy that up to 1,000 units with no license fees involved," she said. Such extra units typically are used for demonstrations and testing. Previously, Microsoft charged a licensing fee once the operating system was used in more than one unit, she said.

Microsoft's embedded software is already under trial in products including sewing machines and exercise bikes. The new program was created to get more companies to try the software.

Windows CE .Net is meant for small and portable devices such as handheld computers and mobile phones. Windows XP Embedded is meant for stationary devices with greater computing requirements, such as automated teller machines and airport check-in kiosks.

Microsoft partners including MIPS Technologies and Applied Data Systems will offer boards with the Microsoft software preloaded under the new program, Microsoft said.

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