Microsoft: Retailers want RFID, biometrics, wireless

'And we have the OS to prove it'

'And we have the OS to prove it'

Windows has taken the wraps off its only vertical-specific operating system: Windows Embedded for Point of Service.

The retail-and-hospitality OS, revealed today at the Retail Systems conference in Chicago, is a combination of elements from other Windows operating systems tailored to work with retailers' point of service systems.

Microsoft has also announced a catalogue of partners offering devices and applications, akin to the 'plays for sure' concept the Redmond behemoth introduced last year in its digital music range.

The OS comes with Microsoft's longest ever support contract, at 10 years, based on the average lifecycle of retail hardware.

As well as interoperating with a selection of standard peripherals, such as magnetic stripe readers and receipt printers, the OS is designed to work with a number of technologies yet to hit the big-time in the retail technology world, including biometrics or RFID readers and wireless networking.

Jason Denemy, product manager at Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices division, said the push for such futureproofing came from retailers themselves.

"Retailers in general look at having five to 10 year lifecycles at any given point. They're telling us... these are the technologies we will incorporate in the next lifecycle," he told silicon.com. "They will integrate them at some point in the future."

Microsoft has also signed up partners to provide antivirus protection for the OS. However, while the system may be retail-specific, it may not be suitable for 24-hour shops as applying updates and patches still requires the traditional downtime and reboot.