As promised back in September when Windows CE 6.0 was released to manufacturing (RTM), yesterday was the day for the formal launch event:
Craig Mundie, Microsoft Corp. chief research and strategy officer, announced the availability of Windows Embedded CE 6.0, the latest version of the company’s industry-leading software toolkit used to build real-time operating systems for devices such as Internet protocol (IP) set-top-boxes, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), wireless projectors, and a variety of industrial automation, consumer electronics and medical devices.
In conjunction with the 10-year anniversary of Windows Embedded, 100 percent of the Windows Embedded CE 6.0 kernel is now available through the Microsoft® Shared Source program, an overall increase of 56 percent from previous versions of Windows Embedded CE. The Shared Source program provides full source-code access for modification and redistribution by device-makers (subject to the terms of a license agreement), who are under no obligation to share their final designs with Microsoft or others. Although the Windows operating system is a general-purpose computing platform designed for creating a consistent experience, Windows Embedded CE 6.0 is a tool kit device-makers use for building customized operating system images for a variety of non-desktop devices. By providing access to certain parts of the Windows Embedded CE source code, such as the file system, device drivers and other core components, embedded developers are able to choose the code they need, compile it, and build their own, unique operating systems, quickly bringing their devices to market.
Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition is also shipping as part of Windows Embedded CE 6.0. This marks another first for Microsoft; Platform Builder, an embedded-specific integrated development environment, will now be included as a powerful plug-in for Visual Studio 2005 Professional. This brings the entire development chain together in one, easy-to-use tool, from device to applications, shrinking time to market for device development.
Hit the link for the enhancements in CE 6.0 and as implied above, the importance of Windows CE is less for itself than as a base for device specific customizations from 3rd parties and Microsoft itself like the upcoming Windows Mobile Crossbow.
As for the complete sharing of source code with 3rd parties, that seems to have been a surprise for everyone including parts of Microsoft:
The 100% sharing campaign may actually come as a surprise to Microsoft’s own support staff, which this morning released instructions regarding how to tell whether a portion of CE 6.0 is shared or not. With today’s news, which BetaNews confirmed, there is no “not.”
However, not all of Embedded CE’s source code will be licensed for free. A significant portion of it will be free to those who have already purchased and licensed Embedded CE “in the box.” The remainder of the code will be licensed under Microsoft’s existing “Premium Shared Source Program” terms, specifically to “qualified OEMs and partners.”
As the spokesperson told us today, although the fees have not yet been disclosed, Microsoft will consider this program a legitimate source of revenue.
The fact that at least those who can afford it can see everything that Microsoft put into Windows Embedded CE 6.0, will be of interest to those who responded to the news of its impending release last May with questions about its relative interoperability, especially in the face of rising competition from Linux and embedded UNIX. Operating systems based on industry standards, some have argued, are more prone to being shared under open-source licenses, which lends greatly to their inherent interoperability.
In this space (or more correctly, collection of spaces) Microsoft has to compete with other proprietary operating systems as well as open source and in the scramble for share, Microsoft has to do what it takes to attract device vendors:
However, Hardy Poppinga, product manager for Microsoft’s mobile and embedded division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told ZDNet UK that the new “shared source” initiative was in itself the division’s “most significant announcement for years”.
According to Poppinga, Microsoft is opening up the code in response to the wishes of its partners, but he conceded that a “more competitive market” had also necessitated the move.
That’s certainly a refreshing difference from other markets.