The Push to Intelligent Systems

Microsoft’s New Vision of the Embedded Market

Microsoft has shared its vision of what it is now calling the ‘intelligent systems’ market – an evolution of what was historically described as the embedded market. Monikers aside, dramatic evolutions in network connectivity and data accessibility have certainly led to some fundamental changes in embedded/intelligent systems. Recent IDC research backs up this trend, identifying a rapidly developing market of over 1.8 billion units and over $1 trillion in revenue today. Looking ahead, IDC expects the intelligent systems market will double by 2015 to nearly 4 billion units and over $2 trillion in revenue.

By any name, those numbers smell pretty sweet.

IDC’s definition of intelligent systems “centers on the integration of higher plane hardware and software technologies that allow for user reconfiguration, enable autonomous operation, and extend the usage model of the system,” according to the IDC Market Analysis Report “Intelligent Systems – The Next Big Opportunity.” Key attributes of these systems include a microprocessor or system-on-chip (SoC) core that supports at least a 32-bit architecture, support for one or more operating systems capable of executing native or cloud-based applications, and wired or wireless connectivity to a network and other systems.

Mukund Ghangurde, director of product management for the Windows Embedded product line at Microsoft – including Windows Embedded Automotive, Windows Embedded Standard 7 and Windows Embedded CE – gave EE Catalog an in-depth look at what all that means.

EE Catalog: Where do you expect to see some of the most exciting developments in meeting the goal of “Windows everywhere”?


Mukund Ghangurde, Microsoft: We see a major transformation underway in the industry – a transformation that is changing the way software and data are consumed and delivered. The rising demand for computing power to extend beyond desktops and servers, connectivity and the implementation of dynamic user experiences have fundamentally transformed the way embedded devices are built, the way we use them and the value they provide across our work and our personal lives.

We continued to be encouraged by the tremendous growth in the market. IDC reported earlier that unit shipments of IP-connected embedded systems (excluding mobile phones and PCs) will grow from approximately 1.4 billion in 2010 to over 3.3 billion in 2015.

EE Catalog: What are new developments in user interfaces – including gesture – for Windows Embedded applications?

We have seen a shift emphasizing customizable, dynamic and intuitive user interfaces. Windows Embedded delivers the power and familiarity of Windows through endless possibilities with innovative Microsoft technologies that help OEMs build differentiated devices and embedded scenarios with compelling user experiences. For example, Windows Embedded Automotive 7 promotes an interactive user experience employing speech commands and touch input. Since Windows Embedded provides flexibility through a wide range of advanced features, developers can create integrated user experiences that leverage attractive multi-gesture touch interfaces and sensor-detected inputs.

Additionally, the specific features of Windows Embedded products are offering rich immersive user experiences. Windows Embedded Standard 7 supports 64-bit CPUs, Windows Aero user interface, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Touch (multi-gesture touch interfaces and context aware applications) and Windows Flip 3D navigation.

As the next-generation real-time Windows Embedded platform, Windows Embedded Compact 7 enables OEMS to deliver specialized devices that are easier to use in an enterprise environment, to quickly create attractive, intuitive user experiences and streamlined connectivity.

Another advancement comes in Silverlight for Windows Embedded, a development framework and native Windows Embedded Compact 7 runtime for quickly creating intuitive and attractive device and application user interfaces. With Silverlight for Windows Embedded, device developers can separate the user interface design from the development of core device or application functionality, accelerating device development by reducing application development time, allowing for simplified UI customization, and empowering designers and developers to focus on their core competencies. For end users, this translates into intuitive, attractive user experiences on the device.

EE Catalog: What are the advantages for developers of vertical-market versions of Windows Embedded operating systems such as point-of-service (POS) and automotive? Are other vertical versions – such as industrial or medical – on the horizon?

Ghangurde, Microsoft: The main advantage of Windows Embedded vertical-market products (Windows Embedded Automotive 7 and Windows Embedded POSReady 7), is that they are industry-specific solutions that provide the core functionality to devices in these environments. This saves development time and cost by offering standard platform components for these devices. With these industry-specific products, developers do not have to select these features themselves from Windows Embedded general-purpose platforms, which offer a range features for a much broader set of devices.

Windows Embedded Automotive 7 is based on a vision to enrich the in-vehicle experience for drivers and passengers with an industry-leading platform that provides integrated services for communication, entertainment, navigation and information for the mass market. Microsoft gives car makers and suppliers the latest tools and technologies to deliver engaging in-vehicle experiences like speech commands, touch input, hands-free Bluetooth phone communications, advanced dashboard systems and rich UIs.

Additionally, with Windows Embedded Automotive 7, car makers and suppliers also have access to a worldwide partner ecosystem to help quickly create in-vehicle experiences that are easier to use and more engaging for drivers and passengers, e.g., speech commands, touch input, hands-free Bluetooth phone communications, advanced dashboard systems for access to music, maps, third party apps and navigation, as well as streamlined connectivity with other devices.

Windows Embedded POSReady 7 is optimized for POS solutions and unleashes the power of the Windows 7 platform for in-store devices, evolving transaction processing in-store devices to cutting-edge, attractive POS devices for increased customer satisfaction, loyalty and staff productivity. The platform also helps to reduce in-store operational costs and enhances customer experience.

Windows Embedded POSReady 7 helps retailers transform their transaction processing, in-store devices to attractive point-of-service (POS) devices that enhance customer experience, drive customer loyalty and grow brand awareness. Through POSReady 7 features, such as Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Touch and Internet Explorer (IE) 8 protected mode, users are given POS devices that interoperate with many common industry standards as well as with multiple Microsoft desktop and server technologies. Windows Embedded POSReady 7 is the smart choice for retail businesses looking to evolve their transaction processing in-store devices to cutting-edge attractive point-of-service devices enhancing the customer experience and increasing customer loyalty.

For other key Windows Embedded vertical industries (industrial automation and medical), Microsoft delivers end-to-end solutions from specialized devices to the cloud and meet the evolving needs of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) building devices and enterprises managing devices – this includes accessing data and consuming services, as well as exposing services that are used by other devices, applications and cloud services. OEMs are able to select only the components they need in order to tailor the platform to meet the unique requirements of their device. We really can’t speak to any new vertical versions that may or may not exist in the future.

EE Catalog: How can developers capitalize on Windows Embedded as they continue to populate the “Internet of Things” with new smart devices?

Ghangurde, Microsoft: Windows Embedded delivers the power of Windows and the cloud to devices through connection to existing enterprise infrastructures, Windows PCs, servers and the comprehensive “world of Windows.” Windows Embedded helps OEMs take advantage of the opportunity to develop devices that are built with the advantages of Windows and harness the extensive set of Microsoft technologies for inherent security and connectivity. This will empower users with access to apps and data at anytime, anywhere and on any device. For enterprises, it translates into the opportunity to more effectively manage devices as part of their IT infrastructures in the cloud or locally, with the ability to seamlessly extend existing investments in technology.

EE Catalog: What will developers need to know about implementing Windows on ARM processors?

Ghangurde, Microsoft: Windows Embedded has been able to run on ARM for years. Since the inception of the Windows Embedded business, Microsoft has worked closely with ARM to ensure that Windows Embedded has support for the latest ARM architecture. With more than 70 validated processors and millions of shipping devices based on the technology, ARM is a leading architecture for Windows Embedded CE and Windows Embedded Compact 7.

This partnership history with ARM demonstrates Microsoft’s continued innovation and investment to provide a leading software platform for ARM-based devices. Microsoft’s partnership with ARM creates opportunities for unique and industry-changing devices built on Windows Embedded platforms.



Cheryl Berglund Coupé is editor of Her articles have appeared in EE Times, Electronic Business, Microsoft Embedded Review and Windows Developer’s Journal and she has developed presentations for the Embedded Systems Conference and ICSPAT. She has held a variety of production, technical marketing and writing positions within technology companies and agencies in the Northwest.

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