Microsoft aims Windows Embedded at smartbooks

Microsoft looks to also put embedded OS on a range of specialized devices

Microsoft plans to use Windows Embedded to combat rival operating systems in smartbooks and a number of other devices meant to always be connected to the Internet that Microsoft calls CIDs, or consumer Internet devices.

Smartbooks are mini-laptops similar to netbooks, with 10-inch screens and full keyboards. But they use different components, including processors from Arm Holdings, which give them far longer battery life than netbooks.

The kicker is that while Windows 7 will work in netbooks, Microsoft is offering Windows Embedded for smartbooks, potentially giving rival Google a chance to shine in this product segment with the new Chrome OS.

It appears that not everyone is satisfied with Microsoft's OS plan for small devices.

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, started building its own operating system for small handheld computers and mini-laptops in 2007, the Linux-based Moblin OS 2007, a project it still backs even though it's turned over development to the Linux Foundation for further development.

The chip maker is trying to sell its Atom microprocessors in more small devices and wants to make sure people have a good experience with software on these devices.

Kevin Dallas, the general manager of Microsoft's Windows Embedded business, discussed Microsoft's strategies for smartbooks and other devices, such as the company's Haiku concept device, in an e-mail interview with IDG News Service.

What follows is an edited transcript of that exchange:

IDG News Service: Where do smartbooks fit into Microsoft's product lines? Microsoft has said it will not support smartbooks with Windows 7, so what else is available?

Kevin Dallas: ARM has long been one of the prevailing architectures in the embedded industry, and Windows Embedded offers OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners strong support on various mainstream architectures, including ARM, Intel (x86), and MIPS.

Device Manufacturers interested in getting the most complete consumer experience from their small notebook PC investment will want to consider Windows 7 Home Premium, which offers richer multimedia capabilities and visual enhancements. Windows 7 is designed in a way that any edition of the OS should be able to run on small notebook PCs with sufficient hardware.

In terms of specific platform and version, generally speaking, we believe that Windows Embedded CE is an ideal platform for CID development, but as always, we let the device developers choose the embedded OS they deem the most appropriate for their development.

IDGNS: What happened to Microsoft's plans for Haiku? Is that basically a handheld computer or a mobile Internet device (MID)?

Dallas: Haiku was a concept device we brought up in 2006. Many of the ideas we raised at the time have been realized through products in market today, including rich browsing experiences, touch panel, high portability and others. We are pleased to see the innovation presented through the Haiku concept device reflected in the current direction of the market.

You mentioned MIDs, this is a term that some have been using to describe a new emergent class of device. What we are seeing is a specialized class of devices we are defining as consumer Internet devices. CIDs are a broad category of devices that range from smartphones to netbooks, such as personal navigation devices, portable media players, set-top boxes, and networked TVs.

CIDs combine the innovation of next-generation software and the power of the Internet to provide key common consumer experiences. Through this definition, we recognize the potential for additional devices to connect seamlessly with each other, Windows PCs, and to cloud services becoming part of consumers' digital lifestyles.

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service
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