Microsoft delivers its 'other' tablet operating system: Windows Embedded Compact 7

Microsoft announced general availability on March 1 of its 'other' new tablet/slate OS: its Windows Embedded Compact 7 operating system, codenamed 'Chelan.'
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft announced general availability on March 1 of the final version of its Windows Embedded Compact 7 operating system, codenamed "Chelan."

Microsoft posted a 180-day trial version of the final Windows Embedded Compact 7 bits to the Microsoft Download Center on February 28. (Microsoft officials refused to say when the Compact 7 product actually RTM'd, but @UltraWindows notes the digital signature on the bits is February 19, 2011.)

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The newest Embedded Compact operating system is designed to power phones (including Windows Phones), medical devices, industrial automation products and retail systems, as well as slates/tablets.

For the last several months, a number of Microsoft OEMs have been touting new slates and tablets that will be running Compact 7. Microsoft officials have attempted to distinguish slates and tablets running full Windows 7 from those running Compact 7 by saying those running the Windows Embedded Compact OS are meant to be consumption devices, rather than consumption and creation devices.

Microsoft's first "real" tablet/slate OS is considered by many to be Windows 8, which is seemingly on track to be released to manufacturing in 2012.

The Windows Embedded Compact 7 product -- the evolution of Windows Embedded CE -- includes several new features. Among them:

* Support for ARM v7 * New developer and designer tools * New technology for creating user interfaces * New SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support for x86 & ARM, MIPS * New multimedia player, with customizable UI * New version of Internet Explorer (which is based on IE 7 with some "performance updates" from IE 8) * Flash 10.1 support (which requires an Adobe license by OEMs who want to include that feature) * Silverlight for Embedded support * Improved Connectivity to PCs, servers (NDIS 6.1 support)

Silverlight for Embedded enables OEMs to create custom interfaces, using XAML and native C++, "free from Windows chrome," meaning the surrounding usual Windows user-interface elements. Here's a slide from a recent Microsoft presentation to OEMs that outlines the new Silverlight for Embedded feature in Compact 7:

Go to the next page for more Microsoft slides and information about Windows Embedded Compact 7

Microsoft was scheduled to RTM Windows Embedded Compact 7 before the end of calendar 2010, but in October 2010, acknowledged the company had pushed back that delivery date. In January, the team issued a new Commmunity Technology Preview (CTP) test build of the product. Microsoft officials said in January 2011 to expect Microsoft to deliver new SKUs of Embedded Compact 7 in the April/May 2011 timeframe. When I asked today for more information as to what is coming, I didn't receive a reply by the time I posted this blog entry.

(Update: Still no answer from Microsoft as to what's coming in April/May, but maybe it's the Embedded Compact 7 version of the Windows Embedded Handheld OS that Microsoft promised was coming. Just a guess on my part....)

Here are a few more Windows Embedded Compact 7 slides from the aforementioned Microsoft OEM presentation that may be of interest:

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Anyone out there considering a Windows Embedded Compact 7 tablet this year? Any preferences -- by you OEMs, partners or customers -- for a Compact 7 one vs. a full-Windows 7 tablet?

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