Microsoft has rolled out a set of services and products aimed at helping manufacturers create appliances and devices based on Windows CE and the embedded version of Windows NT.
At the Embedded Systems Conference, Microsoft unveiled the first Windows Embedded Partner Programme, the Windows Embedded Online Customer Marketplace and a website, the Windows Embedded Developer Center. The software giant also made available a free Windows Embedded Evaluation Kit featuring the Windows CE 3.0 and Embedded Windows NT 4.0 operating systems.
Embedded operating systems run the basic functions of a device in the background and are generally invisible to the end user.
Microsoft said it is working with about 200 partners in the embedded space, including Applied Data Systems, National Semiconductor, Siemens AG and Symbol Technologies. The Redmond giant expects the number to grow to more than 300 by the end of the year.
Bill Veghte, vice president of Microsoft's embedded and appliance platforms group, said the company is "taking its commitment to the embedded industry a step further by developing a community of partners and customers that can easily connect with one another".
As part of the new programme, Microsoft launched Windows Embedded Partner Extranet, www.mswep.com, which will provide products, support and information. A one-stop marketplace to connect customers with Windows embedded services will also be available which supplies a customised and automated request for proposal process.
The dedicated website, www.msdn.microsoft.com/embedded/, will provide developers with access to technical information and include links to software developer kits, sample source code and training information.
Microsoft also said it will release add-on software for Windows CE 3.0 that includes support for sharing internet connections and XML.
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said Microsoft was missing out on revenue generated from sales of hardware with embedded software. To be part of the embedded market is "an important step for long-term survival for Microsoft", he said, adding that "it won't put them out of business in the next five years, but they needed to take a significant position here".
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