Late last year, Microsoft officials said that the latest version of its Windows Embedded Compact 7 operating system was running slightly behind schedule and would be out in the first quarter of 2011. It looks like like that date might be pushed back again, based on some updated information.
Windows Embedded Compact 7, codenamed "Chelan," is the successor to Windows CE. The Embedded Compact operating system runs on x86, ARM and MIPS processors, and is the core platform upon which Microsoft builds its Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD products. (Many had expected Windows Embedded Compact 7 to be the core upon which Microsoft built the Windows Phone 7 OS, but that didn't end up happening.) Microsoft licenses the Embedded Compact 7 to a number of OEMs, including several tablet/slate makers, to use as the operating system in their devices.
As Geeksmack.net noted, Microsoft is making a January refresh of the public Community Technology Preview (CTP) build of Embedded Compact 7 available to testers by end of day on January 27.
But during a Web chat on January 25, D'Arcy Salzmann, Product Manager for Compact 7 and CE products, mentioned April/May 2011 as the new Embedded Compact 7 target date, when asked by a chat participant about Microsoft's plans for the platform. Here's the exchange from the chat:
Q:  future of CE: when MS announced at CES about W8 pointed to tablet-pc based on ARM CPU did it shrink (or close) CE roadmap?
A (Salzmann): Hi, thanks for your question regarding Windows on ARM. With Compact 7 about to release and another Compact release in the pipeline in the April-May 2011 timeframe, the Compact roadmap hasn't changed. The planning for Compact v.next has just started and we have a team of engineers working on the next product. We have a long history of using assets from the Windows client team, and since the announcement just came out at CES we're starting the investigation of how (and when) Windows on ARM will become part of the embedded portfolio and we'll have more to say in the future. The Compact product line is Microsoft's solution for small footprint embedded devices.
I asked company officials for a little clarification as to how many Windows Embedded Compact 7 releases Microsoft is planning for this year, as Salzmann's answer left me confused as to whether there would be one or two. I was told, via a spokesperson: “Windows Embedded Compact 7 remains in the pipeline for early this year. The discussion around timing pertains to different SKUs and relates to customer licensing, not separate products.”
Earlier this month, Microsoft listed as March 15 the RTM date for Windows Embedded Compact 7 on its Lifecycle Support page. Microsoft has removed that information from the page.
Windows Embedded Compact 7 is one of a handful of Microsoft products using "7" as part of their names. Besides Windows 7, there also is Windows Embedded Standard 7, Windows Embedded Automotive 7, Windows Embedded POSReady 7 and more.
Among the new features in Embedded Compact 7 are Silverlight for Windows Embedded; updated support for tabs, pan and zoom; support for Flash 10.1 (listed as "coming soon"); the ability to connect to Windows 7 using Windows Device Stage; the ability to consume rich media with a new library manager and support for rich HD media streaming; and support for ARM v7, SMP and hardware graphics acceleration.