Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

Summary: Last summer, Microsoft execs said to expect Windows Embedded Handheld 7 -- an enterprise-targeted update to its ruggedized-device operating system -- to arrive in the second half of calendar 2011. But those plans seemingly have changed.


A year ago, Microsoft officials went public with their roadmap for the company's various embedded mobile operating systems. At that time, the Redmondians said to expect Windows Embedded Handheld 7 -- an enterprise-targeted update to its ruggedized-device operating system -- to arrive in the second half of calendar 2011. But those plans seemingly have changed.

Here's the back story: With the Windows Embedded Handheld 7 product, Microsoft planned to move to the Windows Embedded Compact 7 core, and add support for the same development tools that Windows Phone 7 support:  Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight and the XNA platform. Embedded Handheld 7 “will support richer experiences and richer applications,” a Microsoft officials said. In addition to supporting a stylus for input, Embedded Handheld 7 also would support multi-touch, according to the company.

The commitment from Microsoft meant that enterprises betting on the current Windows Embedded Handheld product -- built around the end-of-lifed Windows Mobile 6.5 core -- weren't at a dead-end. There would be another version of the ruggedized OS product coming with features more comparable to those Microsoft was providing on the consumer side with the Windows Phone OS.

An eagle-eyed reader of mine who bet on Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 noted a recent change on Microsoft's updated Embedded Roadmap Web page.

(click on the timeline above to enlarge)

Notice that there's no more mention of Embedded Handheld 7. The timeline cuts off at the end of the first half of 2011. In other words, this tail end of the roadmap is nowhere to be found. Here's that missing piece, which Microsoft provided to me a year ago:

The same reader also noted that a video clip of Kevin Dallas, General Manager of Windows Embedded, tread carefully around the issue as to what will be the successor to Windows Embedded Handheld. Dallas noted that Microsoft would provide mainstream support for Windows Embedded Handheld devices until 2014, and extended (paid) support until 2019. He also said that the team was hard at work on "the next platform that will power the next generation of enterprise handhelds." Dallas never used the words "Windows Embedded Handheld 7."

There are a couple of plausible explanations as to why Microsoft has removed all Windows Embedded Handheld 7 references from its Embedded site. Windows Embedded Compact 7 was delayed by a number of months, and was not made generally available until early March, 2011. That may mean that the Embedded Handheld 7 product -- slated to be built on top of Embedded Compact 7 -- also has slipped and won't actually ship this year. Or Microsoft may have decided that Windows 8, which will run on system-on-a-chip architectures from ARM, Intel and AMD, may become the successor to Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5. Or perhaps  Microsoft's "we will share no roadmap before the product is completely coded" philosophy has now taken hold inside the Embedded team....

I've asked Microsoft for comment on what's going on with Windows Embedded Handheld 7 but haven't heard back yet. I will update this post if and when I do.

Update 1: Unsurprisingly, Microsoft isn't talking about whether or not Embedded Handheld 7 is still in the cards. Here's the full reply, via a company spokesperson:

"We remain committed to the enterprise handheld device market, recently illustrated by the release of Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 – this included extending the support lifecycle for Windows Embedded Handheld to align with the typical five to seven-year lifecycle of business applications in the enterprise, with mainstream support running through December 2014 and extended support runs through December 2019. We are not disclosing any new information concerning our roadmap for the Windows Embedded Handheld platform at this time."

Meanwhile, the Embedded team did ship a new product this week: Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011. That product is designed for the management of Windows-Embedded-based thin clients, point-of-sale systems, digital signage and kiosks. Embedded Device Manager 2011 "extends" the capabilities of System Center Configuration Manager 2007, the Softies said.

I am curious whether the new Embedded Device Manager 2011 product also will be able to manage Windows Embedded Compact 7 devices, Windows Mobile and/or Windows Embedded Handheld devices, as there is no mention of support for any of those operating systems on the Device Manager Web site. I'm also curious if this new Embedded Device Manager release will support the System Center Configuration Manager 2012 product, which is on track to ship this year. (Microsoft delivered a second beta of SCCM 2012 -- which will be able to manage Windows Phone 7, iOS and Android devices, this week.) I've asked Microsoft officials for comment on these details, as well....

Update 2: The aforementioned spokesperson answered some of the questions I had.

Embedded Device Manager 2011 cannot be used with SCCM 2012. The official word: Embedded Device Manager "cannot be used with System Center Configuration Manager 2012 at this time. However, our roadmaps are closely aligned, and moving forward we will coordinate our future product releases to ensure enterprises are able to harness the latest technologies from Microsoft to manage their PCs, servers and embedded devices."

And for now, the only devices that are manageable via Embedded Device Manager 2011 are the ones I mentioned above. "As we look to expand the solution’s capabilities and functionality, we will evaluate opportunities to extend support to other devices built on Windows Embedded’s portfolio of platforms, including enterprise handheld devices built on the Windows Embedded Handheld platform," the spokesperson added.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Me Im hoping its the W8 SOC :-)

    That would totally ROCK!!
    Johnny Vegas
    • The Ruggedized Device Market is Going Android

      Yes, Microsoft has been positioning its desktop Windows 8 as able to run "on everything".

      That pushes Windows Embedded 7 off the map. Not only that, it pushes Windows Phone 7 into the trash can.

      Windows 8 is yet another platform reset.

      Meanwhile, while Microsoft is again resetting, the ruggedized devices market is gravitating to Android, which makes more sense.
    • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

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  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    hahaaha i rather wait than getting a buggy iphone. your the one i feel sorry for getting junk buggy iphone hows is your deathgrip coming did you get your pretty case? also your junk iphone daylight saving did not work hahsha and did your alarm clock wake you up due to many of the iphone big problems shows you how sour apples are hahaha also windows phone 7 no problems at all. also you say iphone such a great phone than why are people around the world saying how much they hate there iphone. maybe you should listen to people real comments why iphone is just a junk phone. goto also iphone still does not have FLASH???????? so sad which 95% websites uses it. yup winner is windows phone i rather wait for updates rather than getting many bugs iphone have gotten and dont want get a new update every year which is what junk iphone does.
    • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

      You sir, are an idiot.
      • I second that


      • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap


        I third that!
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    My bet is they are taking this the W8 SOC route for better or worst. Regardless, the industry needs to know their plans ASAP. Otherwise they are going to lose the hardware vendors to Android or WebOS and the software vendors to iOS, Android, or WebOS. The longer Microsoft waits to make an announcement the more of us they will lose.
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    I'd like to know where they come up with these lousy names.

    And why do they need to add '7' to them?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

      @Cylon Centurion 0005

      oh maybe its a secret fetish with 7 o_0 or maybe its just the success with the 7 number in product name maybe?
  • If you think about it...

    And MS comes up with a real platform winner; a W8 kernel that will run on ARM, Intel, etc., optimized for the tablet form factor and integrate the important functionality such as multitouch, multitasking, C&P, etc., the hardware manufacturers are going to ship devices with the OS because 1) enterprise customers will want it and 2) they aready have relationships with MS and it makes good business sense.<br><br>Take the new Galaxy tabs coming out, which look like real winners to me form-factor wise. These will run the new W8 (assuming the OS supports the architecture, which MS says it will), it would be easy for Samsung to ship a version with W8 instead of Android.<br><br>HTC hasn't even weighed in on the tablet market yet, and you know they have something cooking. They make great hardware.<br>

    OK, there is a new HTC tablet intro; looks interesting...
    <br>MS has a long way to to in this marketplace. They will not be kept out...
    • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

      @dcristof They can't even multitask or implement copy and paste (or push out upgrades without bricking devices) and you think they actually have a shot at doing something right with W8?

      Whatever you're smoking, I don't want any. I like my brain.
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    Sure, W8 sounds great on these tablet devices but can it really be optimized for these smaller form factors. Can it have 10 hours of battery life and have an instant on like iOS and Android. I'm still very skeptical they can do this.
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    Microsoft is BEYOND LOST. Wow. Losing the plot doesn't even scratch the surface.
  • Does anyone get a headache reading Microsoft product names anymore?

    I mean seriously, Android and Froyo and Honeycomb versus Microsoft Conglobumated Windows Handheld Slatevertized 7... Are there any competent people in their marketing department?
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

    Umm, I loved the "CE" from its start, even it was hated almost always. Today, it seems to me more and more what "CE" really (:-) means: Conversion Edition ... CE1.0/2.0 kernel was cleaned up unicode-only rewrite of desktop windows, even with almost exactly the same UI which was then very criticized to be not so much effective on early handhelds (there was slow UI controls, simply almost copy/pasted code from WinNT). In CE 3.0 (PocketPC 2000+), PDA UI was rewriten to be flat and from CE 4.0, kernel was slowly moving to be useable as hard-realtime OS. It was and is always available for many CPU platforms, incluting x86, of course ARM, but also MIPS, SH3... CE is simply portable from schratch, free of old legacy APIs, with more *nix-like kernel driver models, it was simply always far more modern than desktop windows. But it was not so powerfull for anything bigger than PDA and phones, until CE6.0 kernel, where was far better memory and process management included. Although PPC/WM platforms build upon CE3.0+ was sticked to ARM only to not confuse market and customers with different app binaries, CE is always multiplatform and now its even powerfull enough to drive ALL consumer related devices from phones to slates to netbooks, which is even more obvious with NETCF (so also SilverLight = native agcore + managed CLR runtime sandbox) running on top of it. And this SL/WPF (so XAML) and managed CLR is another abstraction layer hidding underlying OS kernel even more for anything new. So Windows8 can be far more similar to CE6+, if not based on it for practically anything "consumer related" from now. Servers and professional developers/designers workstations will be always completelly different world, they remain "true compouters", more and more used with virtualization features and still supporting plain-old MS-DOS commandline apps as well. So in Win8, MS probably finally merges CE and legacy kernels back into "one and only one" portable path to future, because all mobile devices are for several years so much powerfull. My first PC was 386sx-25Mhz .... where are we today? :-)
  • RE: Windows Embedded Handheld 7 slips off the Microsoft roadmap

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