Microsoft rolled out the final version of its Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 operating system on September 22. The 6.0 R3 release is the first CE variant to include an embedded version of Silverlight, Microsoft's Flash competitor.
But just because Silverlight is in CE 6.0 R3 doesn't mean Silverlight automatically becomes available on Windows Mobile. Silverlight is something Microsoft execs have said repeatedly they are planning to make available on Windows Mobile but so far have not provided a timetable as to when it will happen.
Windows Mobile currently is built on top of the Windows CE core. The 6.5 release of Windows Mobile is based on a CE 5.2 core the CE 5.0 kernel, a Microsoft spokesperson said, adding that CE 5.2 is not part of the Windows Embedded CE product family (?). Microsoft officials have declined to say which version of Windows Embedded will be used as the base platform for Windows Mobile 7. In fact, they've won't say definitively that Windows Embedded CE will be the core of that mobile release at all.
A Microsoft spokesperson sent me the following response when I asked about the significance of today's announcement from a Silverlight perspective:
"This is the first time Silverlight will be included in Windows CE, and it is a specialized implementation. It is specific to Windows CE and does not extend to Windows Mobile."
So why would a device maker care about the inclusion of Silverlight in CE Embedded? From Microsoft's press release:
"Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 delivers the rich application experiences of Microsoft Silverlight through the innovative Silverlight for Windows Embedded user interface (UI) framework. This assists original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in delivering specialized consumer and enterprise devices with immersive user experiences, animated UIs and seamless connections to the world of Windows 7-based PCs, servers and online services."
Microsoft made the CE 6.0 R3 announcement at the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston. The company also announced the delivery to OEMs of a few other embedded products: Windows 7 Professional for Embedded Systems, Windows 7 Ultimate for Embedded Systems and Windows Server 2008 R2 for Embedded Systems.
Microsoft officials describe the Windows 7 embedded products as "fully functional, license-restricted versions of the Windows 7 desktop operating system with full Windows application compatibility intended for use in embedded devices, including ATMs, kiosks, industrial PCs and medical devices." Like Windows 7, the new embedded versions include multitouch support; DirectAccess and BranchCache networking support; and XP Mode support.
The new Embedded Server release is for OEMs who want to make Windows Server 2008 R2 the operating system in software, systems and appliances targeted at the unified messaging, telecommunications, security, medical imaging and industrial automation markets.
Microsoft is working separately on a new version of its Windows Embedded Standard product, codenamed "Quebec," that is a componentized version of Windows 7. Microsoft released a technology-preview test version of that product, known officially as Windows Embedded Standard 2011, to testers last month. The final version is due to be released to manufacturing in the first half of calendar 2010.
Microsoft also is working on a new version of Embedded CE that is codenamed "Chelan" and is expected to ship in 2010. I'm unclear as to whether the CE 6.0 R3 release announced today is the same thing that is/was codenamed "Cashmere." That version of Embedded CE was a tentative release due right about now, according to a confidential roadmap slide I saw from Microsoft. It also was slated to include support for FlashLite, not Silverlight, so it's not 100 percent sure it is the same product.
Update: Via a Microsoft spokesperson. Today's CE 6.0 R3 release is, indeed, Cashmere.
"You are correct - today's RTM of Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 is the same product that was previously code-named Cashmere. This release does support rich in-browser UIs through FlashLite as well. The Silverlight for Windows Embedded UI framework is an out-of-browser, native code implementation of Microsoft Silverlight technology."