Microsoft is making available as of January 10 its Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 operating system -- its offering for ruggedized enterprise phones and devices.
Microsoft unveiled its plans for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in June, 2010, committing to deliver the release before the end of calendar 2010. Microsoft officials also said at that time to expect another version of the Windows Embedded handheld platform -- Windows Embedded Handheld 7, built on top of Windows Embedded Compact 7 -- in the second half of calendar 2011.
Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 is built on top of Windows Mobile 6.5, and is targeted primarily at devices for custom line-of-business applications, like bar-code scanning, RFID reading, etc. (Windows Mobile 6.5 was one of the last versions of Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system family that the company delivered before shifting gears and moving to Windows Phone 7.) Microsoft officials said today that the company will offer mainstream support for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 through December 2014, and extended support through December 2019.
OEMs working on devices running Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 include Intermec, Motorola and Honeywell. Microsoft and its partners are showing off Windows Embedded Handheld devices at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York City this week.
Windows Embedded Handheld is just one of many mobile operating systems from Microsoft. Others include the aforementioned Windows Embedded Compact, Windows Embedded Standard, Windows Phone OS and Windows 7. The Embedded organization at Microsoft, as of a reorg last fall, is part of the company's Server and Tools unit.
So what about Windows Embedded Compact 7? Last week, I speculated about Microsoft's near- and longer-term directions for the Embedded Compact product line, given that Microsoft is moving Windows to the ARM processor family. I noted that Microsoft officials had delayed the Embedded Compact 7 launch until the first quarter of 2011 (last we heard). Subsequently, I received a note from an Embedded division spokesperson, noting that Embedded Compact 7 "is very much on track for early this year."
One reader (thanks @UltraWindows), sent me a link to a Microsoft Lifecycle Support Web page that makes it look like the RTM date for Embedded Compact 7 is March 15, 2011.
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Windows Embedded Compact 7 is expected to be the core of not just the next version of the Embedded Handheld platform, but also future iterations of the Windows Phone OS and tablets/slates from OEMs who don't want to run Windows 7.
Microsoft also announced on January 10 a community technology preview (CTP) test build of Windows Embedded POSReady 7, an embedded operating system for in-store point-of-sale devices for the retail and hospitality industries. The final version of Embedded POSReady 7, which includes a number of Windows 7 features, is due before the end of calendar 2011, officials said.