MS issues beta of embedded Whistler OS

Microsoft on Monday released a beta version of the embedded implementation of Whistler, the next release of the Windows 2000 operating system that is focused on use in terminals, set-top boxes, and retail point-of-sale kiosks.

"We are bringing the latest Windows technology to the embedded space," said Deanne Hoppe, lead product manager of embedded and appliance platforms at Microsoft.

Since Windows NT 4.0 Embedded, Microsoft has kept a low profile in the embedded space because that is not a big part of its business, according to analysts.

"Microsoft clearly needs to counter in some way the trend to move toward Linux as the popular embedded OS," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies.

Linux has garnered a sizeable chunk of traction in the embedded space, mainly because it's reliable, inexpensive, and has a small footprint. In short, it's exactly what people look for in an embedded operating system.

Microsoft's overall embedded strategy is to offer everything in Whistler to the embedded community via componentisation and to provide developers with the tools to build embedded applications and device platforms for Microsoft's .NET initiative, Hoppe said.

The first beta is limited to 100 customers and partners so that Microsoft can carefully monitor and track the feedback, according to Hoppe.

"All the [beta participants] are building clients of some sort; there's no server yet," Hoppe said.

The server version, however, will emerge in the second beta version, she added. In beta 2, Microsoft also plans to broaden the areas where the embedded version can be used.

Beta 1 includes a set of four application development tools, two of which are new and the other two updated. The set includes Target Designer and Component Designer, as well as a new database manager and a feature called Target Analyzer for choosing OS components for use in embedded applications.

The last version of an embedded operating system that Microsoft shipped was with Windows NT 4.0. Hoppe said that the company opted not to bring a Windows 2000 embedded version to market because historically there has been a 12 to 18 month lag behind the PC OS, and another year until third-parties bring systems to market.

Microsoft is working to reduce the lag time, she said. An embedded version of Whistler is slated to ship 90 days after the final version of Whistler for systems.

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