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Microsoft Enters Embedded Systems Market with Windows NT

Microsoft Corp. has been talking about entering the embedded systems market for some time now, and most of this talk has centered around the Windows CE operating system. However, Team Redmond announced it will deliver a new version of the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 operating system for embedded systems vendors. Based on Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4, Windows NT Embedded 4.0 is an open system solution enabling greater functionality, faster time-to-market for richer solutions and a reduced cost of owning and operating embedded devices.

"Embedded solutions vendors have been looking for an open system solution and have asked Microsoft to make Windows NT that platform," said Mike Nash, director of marketing for Windows NT Server and infrastructure products at Microsoft.

Historically, embedded systems vendors have developed closed solutions based on fragmented and proprietary platforms. Windows NT Embedded 4.0 provides end users with the tools for managing embedded devices, such as a copier, from a desktop PC or easily integrating the functionality of that copier into an existing server infrastructure. As a complement to Windows CE, Windows NT Embedded 4.0 poses design advantages for embedded solutions that are interconnected, require full Win32 binary compatibility, and are tightly integrated with Microsoft BackOffice family products in line-of-business systems.

Windows NT Embedded 4.0 delivers new embedded features and target design tools that will help vendors reduce time-to-market for new devices, lower development costs and improve the functionality of solutions. New features include Headless support, which enables a new class of devices for Windows NT that run without a mouse, keyboard or display device. FLASH Media support, a Write Filter driver and a CD Boot driver enable a lower-cost, more reliable embedded device that boots and operates without a physical disk drive and from read-only media such as FLASH or CD-ROMs. The new Remote management infrastructure allows embedded systems to be remotely managed, configured and updated.

In September, an early alpha version of Windows NT Embedded was released for technical evaluation to a small group of companies within the communications, industrial automation, office automation, medical devices and retail point-of-sale industries. A broad beta of Windows NT Embedded 4.0 is scheduled for release in the first quarter of 1999. –Thomas Sullivan, Staff Reporter/Reviews Editor

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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