Microsoft has been working on software for devices for more than a decade. The company has gone to market with everything from software for car entertainment systems, point-of-sale terminals, coffee makers and smart watches.
But Microsoft is embarking on remaking its Internet of Things (IoT) products, services and strategy in a way that goes consderably beyond Windows Embedded.
The company is building a number of new Azure-powered services that are aimed at harnessing, managing and making sense of data from sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. It is also expected to field new IoT devices and services of its own, ranging from various wearables -- glasses, watches and the like -- as well as home-automation systems and services.
Here's what is in the works from Microsoft on the IoT front.
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Up until now, Microsoft's Windows Embedded team has focused primarily on enterprise/industrial customers, not consumers. Its charter has been to convince retail, healthcare, manufacturing and automotive shops to embed various flavors of Windows in their devices.
But the Embedded team has now morphed officially into Microsoft's IoT team. And the new IoT team's mission goes beyond Windows. In fact, its charter calls for it to address all kinds of OSes, presumably including Linux, given its large embedded-device presence.
While the embedded operating systems are key to IoT, the back end is equally important. And for Microsoft, the IoT back end is its cloud operating system, Azure.
Devices of all kinds will be interconnected through Azure, in Microsoft's evolving IoT view. And those developing IoT services can build them so they run on and extend with Azure.
Earlier in April, Microsoft announced limited preview availability of the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service. This service enables users to capture and manage machine-generated data from sensors and devices.
Businesses will be able to use Microsoft data-analysis tools like HD Insight, its Azure Hadoop service, and Power BI, its business intelligence service, to capture and analyze the data from that service.
Microsoft also is working on one (and possibly more) lower-level Azure service to facilitate IoT messaging.
One of those services builds on the Azure Service Bus messaging functionality, and is aimed at communicating with the myriad sensors and devices that figure in the IoT equation. That service -- which Microsoft has yet to unveil officially -- is expected to use a gateway (codenamed "Reykjavik") for sending information to devices and collecting information from them.
Clouds approaching Reykjavik, Iceland.
Microsoft also is working on the consumer side of its IoT strategy. The company is believed to be working on new wearable devices -- which may include a new smart watch, as well as various types of smart glasses.
At the Build 2014 conference in April, Microsoft IoT members talked about the company's thinking around the evolution of Microsoft's Embedded Automotive platform towards more of a "Connected Car" platform that is similar to what Apple's CarPlay concept sounds like.
Microsoft's IoT is building "the operating systems and cloud services that power non-PC/tablet/phone/console 'things' such as industry devices, wearables, automobiles, consumer electronics, etc." according to one Microsoft IoT team member's LinkedIn profile. "We enable intelligent systems to be built from these things across a broad range of industry verticals."
Microsoft doesn't (yet) offer a device like the Nest thermostat, but it's no stranger to the home-automation space.
Microsoft Research has been working on a variety of home-automation-focused research projects, including a HomeOS, a home app store and more, for more than four years. There's talk that Microsoft might use its id8 R2 Studios acquisition to bolster the Xbox so it can become a central home-automation command and control system.
Though Microsoft Research projects don't always become commercialized products, the trend in recent years is for Microsoft to find ways to incorporate MSR technologies into as many shipping products as possible.