Windows XP lives on in the next embedded OS upgrade

The versatility of Microsoft's previous generation of operating system is about to be shown off some more, with a new edition that will be customizable for various embedded devices, using a special version of Visual Studio.

It's no secret that the Windows XP kernel is better suited for small devices than the Vista kernel, whose new architecture -- including such features as Address Space Layout Randomization -- requires a larger memory footprint. What may be a surprise is how much Microsoft has managed to compress into the next edition of Windows for embedded devices, now called Windows Embedded Standard, including .NET Framework 3.5, Windows Media Player 11, Silverlight, and Internet Explorer 7.

It may not have the "XP" trademark on the front any more, but its hallmark is all over Windows Embedded Standard (ES) 2009. What's more, it actually features something from the Vista world that may make using an embedded system feel not much different from using Windows on the desktop: support for Remote Desktop Protocol 6.1. Imagine a small device with a little LCD screen, maybe running within a remote security station embedded in a kiosk, or maybe running on the front panel of a laser printer. Now imagine it running Word. That's the door RDP opens, as it makes possible Terminal Services, which in turn enables Office applications to be run from remote servers, on very thin clients.

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Those Office apps can run from the "desktop" of ES, which conceivably works just like any other desktop. Alternately, other applications geared to work through Web browsers -- for instance, business intranet apps and line-of-business apps -- can use RDP to communicate securely with IE7, which now will be built into Windows ES 2009.

While yesterday's Tech·Ed 2008 in Orlando kick-off was believed to be the official "launch date" for ES 2009, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to BetaNews that this morning is when availability for enrollment in the Windows Embedded Standard beta program actually begins. The development package will include Visual Studio 2008, adapted specially for embedded development with features such as an intriguing little item called Target Designer. With it, you actually build custom images of the Windows Embedded operating system for distribution to your individual devices, and licensing starts at $90 per drop. An included Component Designer helps you choose the unique device drivers necessary for the OS to recognize the buildout of your device.

It's worth noting that ES 2009 comes with the full .NET Framework 3.5, not the .NET Micro Framework 2.5. That later edition is geared toward much smaller devices with memory footprints that are too cramped for any version of Windows, like small handhelds or even watches.

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