Microsoft is pushing hard the notion that its Windows operating system isn’t just for servers, tablets, and desktop computers. It is looking to use Windows 8 to enlarge its foothold in commercial devices like ATMs, point-of-sales retail systems, kiosks, and other commercial applications. Windows Embedded Standard 8 is the embedded version of Microsoft’s latest OS Windows 8. Windows Embedded Standard 8 is aims to seamlessly blend commercial devices to management and security networks. Previously, these systems weren’t integrated because the devices were standalone devices with their own specifically flavored operating systems. How does Windows 8 aim to integrate such a wide range of devices? The new embedded version supports Active Directory and Group Policies and the OS can be managed through the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager via the Windows plugin for Embedded Device Manager. Developers can use Visual Studio to develop applications for the embedded OS. Custom OS images will be configurable using the Windows Embedded Modular Designer and Image Builder Wizard.
The OS supports existing business app lines as well as touch-based apps that were developed for the new Microsoft Metro interface. In terms of security, Windows Embedded Standard 8 carries most of the security tools that come with the OS’ desktop version. These tolls include Secure Boot, BitLocker, and AppLocker. In addition, Windows Embedded Standard 8 also has tools that will allow user access to Microsoft cloud services’ stored data. Microsoft offers the Windows Azure and SQL Azure cloud services to users via their portable and handheld devices.
Microsoft’s embedded systems competition is the iPad. While Microsoft currently retains 80% of the point-of-sale retail market, a fast rising number of businesses are using specially configured tablets like the iPad to do sales and order management. In a recent estimate of embedded system trends, 50% of retailers are looking into deploying handheld point of sale devices to displace current POS standard systems. This means a big sea change for Microsoft since those standard POS systems either run on Windows Embedded or Linux.
The preview version of the Windows Embedded Standard 8 can be obtained at Microsoft’s website. Users need to have a Windows 7 system with service pack 1 installed and be running on at least a 16 or 32 bit 1 GHz box with at least 1GB of memory (for 32 bit) and 2GB for (16 bit). There is no announced ship date for Windows Embedded Standard 8 yet.