Windows CE for the hobbyist – thoughts, comments?

At the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose last week the "Spark your Imagination" program was launched - This gives non-professional developers (ok, so you might be a professional developer by day, but just like Clark Kent have an embedded hobbyist developer inside you just waiting to get out) access to low cost hardware, and the software development tools you need to build/debug/deploy custom Windows CE operating system images, and the application development software (Visual Studio 2005) to write applications for the embedded operating system (or desktop, or server, or database, or whatever).

Five hardware companies are taking part in the program, including Advantech, Icop, Via, Special Computing, and Keith and Koep more information about the hardware can be found here.

So, what do you really think about this program? - and what do you think you would build with your hardware and Windows CE ? - drop me a comment below, I'm very interested to find out what you think about this.

If you have one of the VIA Pico-ITX boards from ESC West, or have purchased a board as part of the Spark program then drop me a comment to let me know what you are going to do with the board.

- Mike

Comments (13)

  1. sfiorito says:

    Mike, this is great! When I have some free time I may get one of these systems to play around with as a CarPC alternative to using XP.

    Now…how about an XPe spark program???? 🙂

  2. Kris says:

    Love to get my hands on one of these kits if only they sell for less than $200.

  3. Asad Abu-Tarif says:

    Hi Mike:

    I was at the ESC San Jose conference and liked the hands-on workshops. Where can I download them from (both the Spark labs and the Microsoft ones)



  4. I think this is to be congratulated and encouraged more.

    I’m helping get a new Microsoft embedded technology user group in my home town off the ground. One of the things we are looking at doing is a group buy on one of the boards offered under the Spark program.

    Suggesting that interested members go purchase a full priced version of Platform Builder etc would significantly reduce the number of people able to go home and experiement with techniques / features demoed at the user group. A 120-day trial doesn’t work too well in this situation, since meeting only once a month it doesn’t leave many presentations before the license expires.

  5. Henrik Bach says:

    I have been waiting for this a long time. About a year ago I approached a couple of hardware vendors asking for a CE board. They wanted to know how many – I said "one" – they said "get lost". And then I also needed to find 1000US$ for the CE license. So now that the total price is around 200 Euro for a board and CE license is just great.

    I have contacted 4 of the partners of the programme. I have gotten only 1 response from keith-koep. They have a GSMGPRS modem extension board planned. I could imagine trying to use it to remote control our summerhouse. Other than that I just want to play around with it – maybe change career from being a Windows PC developer to CE/Windows Mobile developer.

  6. John Price says:

    Fantastic idea, I have a number of Home Automation tasks that at present are having to be managed by a central pc. ideally some of these tasks, could be managed by a local device, with the pc just providing configuration. Its possbile to do this today but these devices are expensive and have proprietory software on them. To be able to use a generic peice of hardware in all cases and just change the software to make is a door lock or a light switch would have benefits such as a reduction in spares engineers have to carry and reducing cost based on volumes.

    I couldnt find a reference to getting samples of this hardware or software in the UK. Any ideas?

  7. Jean-Michel Guemguem says:

    The idea is very interesting, and would provide access to a lot of people.

    Unfortunately, the current offers are not sufficiently accessible: all shopping sites do not place an order in a few clicks.

    And I have a big doubt about the quality of service from one of the sites appears at (online payment unsecured …)

  8. Walter Johnson says:

    I liked the Hands On Labs and would like to get a copy of the code for the Sparks and Intro to Platform Builder Labs.

  9. Zdenko Sadojevic says:

    Spent hours looking for hardware to start developing for Eindows CE. Accidentaly checked link on your blog site.

    Wonderful. I have already ordered my first board.

    I was looking for board that ships with Windows Embede CE 6 and Linux embeded. Unfortunately SPARK boards does not come with Linux.

    Next board I will buy will have images for both.

  10. GW says:

    I have the VIA Pico-ITX boards from ESC West.  I liked the hands-on workshops with this system.  Unfortunately I did not get to do very many of the labs.  Are these labs going to be available for download?

  11. mikehall says:

    The most common question on the thread is whether we’re going to make the lab content available to you.

    This is something the events team are looking at – I will post an update to the blog once this has been resolved.

    – Mike

  12. name says:

    Not much on my mind to speak of, but whatever. Nothing seems worth thinking about. My mind is like a complete blank.,

  13. Oli says:

    The idea is great, but obtaining one is not as easy as I thought it would be. I am very interested in getting the SPARK Kit. I think it will be a great tool for playing with embedded systems, especially since I only just recently graduated from university and don’t have huge amounts of money. There’s not better learning than to learn by doing.

    The trouble is that I live in Australia which is very down under. I have a few problems:

    # VIA doesn’t even offer their system outside of the US.

    # Advantec refuses to sell me a spark kit because im not working on a major project and they are only interested in selling larger quantities. They said: no sorry we only ship to "potential customers" with major projects and in larger quantities. In my oppinion that defeats the purpose and it makes it very exclusive once again.

    # Keith and Koep is expensive … especially shipping wise. US$240 for shipping!!!! YEAH RIGHT PULL THE OTHER ONE! Costs more to ship than the actual product does!!

    # Special Computing has a website with a certificate that has expired and they lack detailed info or details of the product. No specs. Im confused as to how it actually works because their board lacks I/O.

    # Finally iCOP seems to be the only decent one with nice information but once again its going to cost me over US$100 to ship through FedEx because UPS does not service their facility.

    So overall its not really as great as it could be for us Aussies. 🙁

    "Worldwide" … hardly. "a software offering previously available only to professionals" … maybe.

    I would LOVE to know if anyone has alternative methods of obtaining a SPARK kit in Australia. I know that its cheap as it is with everything that it includes, but still…people in the US or in Germany are getting it cheap there must be some way to get it here!?

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