NEW ORLEANS (04/26/2000) - At its WinHEC conference here yesterday, Microsoft Corp. said its operating systems for the embedded market, which include Windows CE, Windows NT Embedded and the forthcoming Windows 2000 Server Appliance Kit, are being combined into a single business unit.
Called the Embedded and Applicance Platforms Group, the new unit will be headed by Bill Veghte, a vice president at Microsoft. It will be part of the software vendor's Platform Group, which is jointly headed by Jim Allchin and Paul Maritz.
Veghte said the group will concentrate on one part of the embedded market:
32-bit systems or higher that require connectivity and adaptable software. It will deliver technology to other Microsoft divisions such as the Consumer Group, which develops the Pocket PC, as well as to hardware manufacturers.
WinHEC attendee Tom Scherger, a senior software engineer at Intermec Technologies Corp. in Everett, Wash., said he likes the idea of a single embedded unit at Microsoft.
"They've realigned all the embedded operating systems under one group, and that will make a huge difference," said Scherger, who added that he expects the move to lead to "less confusion" about how each operating system is positioned.
Intermec makes Windows CE-based handhelds for various vertical markets.
Veghte acknowledged that there has been some overlap between Microsoft's three embedded platforms. But going forward Windows CE will be aimed at client devices and at non-Intel Corp. processor architectures, he said.
Windows NT Embedded, which is based on NT 4.0, will be aimed at uses in which developers want increased control over what functionality to include in the operating system, Veghte said. The Windows 2000 Server Appliance Kit, while similarly positioned as Windows NT Embedded, will be less configurable but more robust because it's based on the Windows 2000 code base.
Windows 2000 Server Appliance Kit, an embedded version of Windows 2000 that lacks certain parts of the complete product, is scheduled to ship this summer.
It's already the basis for recently announced Web server appliances from Dell Computer Corp. and IBM. The Server Appliance Kit will also allow manufacturers to create Network Attached Storage systems and small business servers.
Veghte said there won't be a Windows 2000 version of Windows NT Embedded.
Instead, Microsoft will skip a generation and develop an embedded variant of Whistler, the planned successor to Windows 2000. Veghte said Whistler Embedded will ship 90 days after Whistler, which is due in the second half of next year.
Veghte claimed that Microsoft's embedded platforms will be competitive with emerging embedded versions of Linux, even though the latter are free.
"We think it's (more) about the richness of the platform and the services (than about price), and that's what we're going to focus on," Veghte said.
Microsoft's development tools for CE will lower the total cost of developing embedded applications, he added.
Also at WinHEC, Microsoft announced Windows CE 3.0, which is set to ship in June. This update of CE will offer enhanced real-time features and is already being used as the basis of the newly released Pocket PC.