At the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in New York City this week, Microsoft and its embedded OEM partners are showing off updated versions of their products.
Microsoft offers for licensing quite a few different embedded operating systems with often-less-than-obvious names.
At NRF, the Redmondians announced the immediate availability of a new release-preview test build of the Windows Embedded 8 Industry product. (Windows Embedded 8 Industry is the renamed Microsoft Windows POSReady 7, its point-of-sale optimized solution.)
Microsoft and some of the handful of OEMs using its Windows Embedded 8 Handheld product also are at NRF this week. (There are currently five partners building around Embedded 8 Handheld: Motorola Solutions, Intermec, Honeywell, Ingenico and Bluebird.)
There's no new version of the Embedded 8 Handheld operating system being released this week. But Microsoft officials are saying to expect the first ruggedized handheld phones running this operating system to be in the market in late 2013 or early 2014. The Windows Embedded 8 Handheld software development kit (SDK) will be out "later this year," officials said on January 14.
Windows Embedded 8 Handheld is built on the Windows Phone 8 core. Developers interested in writing applications for Windows Embedded 8 Handheld ruggedized devices can use the Windows Phone 8 SDK to do so. Because of the compatibility with Windows Phone 8, these devices will be able to support off-the-shelf business and productivity apps like Microsoft Lync, Office 365 and Dynamics for Retail, officials said.
Microsoft officials said late last year that Windows Embedded 8 Standard, which is based on the Windows 8 core code, should be available in final form in March 2013. Windows Embedded 8 Pro also is slaed to be generally available in March 2013. Windows Embedded Compact 2013 -- the product that is the successor to Windows Embedded Compact 7 -- is due out in the second quarter of 2013.
Even though Windows Embedded 8 Handheld is based on the Windows Phone, and not the complete Windows codebase, the messaging around it fits in with the Windows Phone/Windows positioning. Microsoft's goal is to offer embedded developers a single platform, even if applications need to be recompiled to run. Because the interface is similar, training costs should be lower, said John Doyle, Director of Product Marketing for Windows Embedded.
Microsoft has moved away from allowing OEMs to license any of the Windows Embedded SKUs for use in tablets of any kind. Any companies interested in creating Windows tablets have to license the full Windows operating system, Doyle confirmed.
"We have the complete Windows 8 wave of products, which can be used to address everything in this (embedded) space," Doyle added.
Microsoft also unveiled a new version of Microsoft Dynamics for Retail at NRF on January 14. (I've asked for more details on this release. If/when I hear back, I'll update this post.) The new version is available to customers as of January 14. The core of this release is based on Dynamics AX 2012 R2, which was made available in December 2012.