Windows CE is NOT dead!

I am just back from the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, CA and I (again) had to answer these same questions again and again: “So is CE really dead?”, “Now you killed CE, how are you addressing the ARM-based platforms?”, “How is it that you are still using Visual Studio 2005?”, “So Windows Embedded products are all different SKUs of the same product, right?”…

Here are some signs that make people think this way:

  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0 OSDesign tools are still integrated into Visual Studio 2005, not even 2008…

  • Visual Studio 2010 does not support Smart Device development (that is the support for developing native and .Net CF applications for Windows CE and Windows Mobile/Phone)…

  • Next version of Windows Embedded CE has been delayed several times…

  • Windows Phone 7 doesn’t clearly states what is the underlying OS…

So let me say this: Windows CE is NOT dead. Our devs are heads down finalizing Windows Embedded Compact 7 that will ship soon and that Microsoft will support over the next 10 years (at least). Windows Embedded team is investing a lot in adding new features, creating new tools to support these new features, analyzing the Embedded market really seriously… Does that sound like a dead product? Definitively not.

By the Way, Windows Phone 7 is based on the Windows Embedded Compact 7 core

You will hear more from me and the Windows Embedded team during the next couple of months and you will understand what I am talking about :-). Lots of good things are coming. Stay tuned.

Comments (46)
  1. Sheryl James says:

    Its good to hear some good news about CE, Lets wait for the updates in a copule of months as promised by obloch.  

  2. Tom says:

    The fact that the question is asked in the first place is the real problem.  Many in the industry are questioning Microsoft’s commitment to embedded and mobile operating system software.

    If Microsoft is serious about embedded systems, Microsoft needs to do a better job getting the word out.

  3. gurdonark says:

    My wish list for Windows CE is simple–I’d love to see

    netbooks with Windows CE which could run digital audio workstation software that includes a piano roll/step sequencer and VST plug-in synthesizer support. Then one’s netbook could be one’s mobile recording studio.

  4. Charbax says:

    How is Windows Embedded Compact 7 different from Windows 7 for x86? Is Microsoft planning to bring a "full" Windows to ARM Cortex processors? I guess it’s not going to be open-source and it’s not going to be free? What do you think about Android and Chrome OS?

  5. @Tom:

    Definitively agree with you. I think the Windows Embedded group is definitvely trying to get the right info out at the right moment. Not always easy with all what’s going on in different MS teams. Things are evolving fast in what I think is the right direction. Stay tuned for more info.


  6. @Charbax

    You are asking how Windows Embedded CE/Compact is different to Windows.

    Windows Embedded CE and its next version, Windows Embedded Compact 7 are not based on Windows binaries (vs. Windows Embedded Standard which is a componentized embedded version of Windows).

    Windows CE has been developped from scratch with a different OS architecture and driver model ensuring hard real time and very small footprint. Windows CE is also disigned to run on different CPU architectures (x86, MIPS, SH, ARM). The other big difference is that you compile Windows Embedded CE when you design a CE OS.

    I cannot comment on your other questions.


  7. magnum says:

    Couldn’t agree more. The best features around WinMo is customization. I can make my phone look any way I want, install any apps I want, and run them in the background when I want.

    It looks like MS is creating an environment which will hopefully lead to the end user being able to use these phoens easily without any hassle. Reactions:

  8. Dev Tools says:

    So does this mean that an update to VS 2010 will allow you to write WinCE7 software?

  9. Ismail Donmez says:

    The question is will you support ARMv6 optimizations? Updated compiler & linker? ARMv4 is history, ARMv5 is old and ARMv6 is current.

    Also, Platform Builder still does not support Visual Studio 2008, let alone 2010. Come on!

  10. anonymous says:

    It’s all because of Microsoft’s nonsensical naming. Windows Embedded Standard 7 is NT-based and Windows Embedded Compact 7 is the real CE. Why create this extreme confusion? Windows CE should be called just that: Windows CE 7.0 or Windows Compact 7. Remove "Embedded" from one of the names and you’ll see people getting less confused.

  11. Sam Feldman says:

    It’s too bad that Windows Embedded CE 6.0 OSDesign tools arent’ integrated into VS 2010. Having to support Embedded development on TFS 2005 has been painful and we would love to move to TFS 2010.

    For all intensive purposes…Embedded CE development has been so painful we’ve been seriously examining the alternatives.

    You mention more details coming "soon"…"soon" is honestly too late. We need details and bits from Microsoft yesterday if we’re to beleive MS doesn’t have CE on just life support.

  12. @Sam, @Ismail Donmez, @Dev Tools

    When I say soon, I mean really soon. Answers to your questions will come next month or so with details on the tools, the CPU families support, and so on.

    Let the dev team finish their work.

  13. Vyacheslav Lanovets says:

    C++ also used to be a "first class PL for .Net" just a couple of years ago and nowadays it’s completely banned from Microsoft Mobile OS and even on desktop MS doesn’t provide Intellisense support for C++/CLI.

    From the outside it really looks like desktop Windows kernel is going to replace CE as mobile OS offering and people on Windows CE team might not even know ;-). It’s not only me; people started to look for the way out of Microsoft toolchain.

    I agree that Microsoft naming is terrible. It’s very easy to search on the Web for programming topics about Android or iPhone or, to some extent, Maemo. But for Windows "Real" Embedded (not Standard) you have to search for topic several times with one of the following added "EVC, Pocket PC, PPC, Smart Devices, Platform Builder, WinCE, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6". This further complicates programming for Windows CE.

  14. Rob says:

    Congratulations on WES 7.

    From the products that I’ve seen your working on it’s going to be great and I’m really looking forward to see what you’re able to do with Aero.


  15. @Rob

    Note that Windows Embedded Standard 7(a.k.a. WES 7) is based on Windows 7 bits while Windows Embedded CE/Compact is an OS that we developed from scratch and has a different architecture than Windows.

    Aero in WES is the same as the one on Windows.

    That said, OEMs don’t want/need to have the Windows desktop shell on their devices, meaning that Aero as you know it on desktop will not be used. They would use WPF or Silverlight to build their shell and provide the best experience for the user.


  16. owen says:

    this is the most confusing set of acronyms I've seen in a long time.  Coupled with an extensive list of promises.  I can't even imagine how confusing this must be for a new comer.

  17. @owen

    Maybe I should not use the acronyms, you are right.

    Is it still so confusing if I say:

    Windows Embedded Compact     (Componentized, real time, small footprint, … Compact)

    Windows Embedded Standard     (Modular Embedded version of Windows … Standard)

    Windows Embedded Enterprise   (Windows SKU for Embedded OEMs in the Enterprise industry)

    Windows Embedded Server         (Windows SKU for Embedded Server Appliances)

    Windows Embedded POSReady (Point of Services optimized version of Windows)

    Windows Embedded Automotive  (Embedded OS for Automotive)

    Windows Embedded NavReady   (Embedded OS for navigatino devices (GPS))


  18. David Piepgrass says:

    I was looking forward to using C++0x features like lambda functions on my company's Windows CE devices (non-phone edition!)… why is MS shutting out all versions of Windows CE that are actually in use, and only supporting a platform that's not even available? Not supporting WinCE in your compiler and IDE seems like a very strong sign MS intends to kill current versions of Windows CE (5.x and 6.x).

  19. @David

    Windows Embedded products life cycle is at least 10 years (with an optional additional 5 years). Older versions are not "shut down", they are replaced by newer ones. Usually, given the release rate, a previous version will still be supported about 7 years after a new version is released.

    The fact that the latest version of Microsoft desktop and Web applications developers tool (Visual Studio) does not support Smart Devices Development (meaning CE and Mobile) does not mean Microsoft is shuttin down older versions of Windows CE. As a matter of fact the tools used to develop on these versions (Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio 2008) are still available and supported.


  20. NK says:

    Hi there- What's the latest IE version available on Win CE 6.0 R3? I have a tablet with this O/S, and it's stuck on the horribly outdated IE6, with ancient Adobe Flash … so YouTube, Netflix, or for that matter any modern site of consequence refuses to work on it!

  21. @NK

    Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 proposes IE Embedded, which is based on IE6.

    Note that even if the CE version of IE is based on "Desktop" Internet Explorer code base, it is not the same and you should not expect the same level of features.

    In CE 6.0 R3, there is a sample version of IE that provides a Silverlight for Windows Embedded chroming. It is up to the OEM to implement it or not, or to use the other simple browser sample (the one you seem to have found on your device).

    With regards to Flash support, R3 has Flash Lite 3.1.

    Note that Compact 7 (new upcoming version of CE) will propose Flash 10 support.


  22. NK says:

    Hi Olivier – thanks!

    Will Flash Lite 3.1 support be sufficient to get (or at least to work on it? How about NetFlix? (since you said Silverlight).

    Also, I'm hoping that the ActiveX support in R3 is comparable to that on a Windows XP.

  23. charles says:

    A lot of developers are very jittery about what Microsoft will do with CE and as a result many are planning exit strategies form WinCE to Linux etc.

    Some of them will be heartened by the statement that Microsoft will support CE for at least ten years. Hearing that from Random Joe Blogger is not enough. Can we get that guarantee from senior management?

  24. @Charles

    Actually this has been discussed publicly by Steven Guggenheimer Corporate VP of our OEM division at last Computex in Taipei early June:…/05-31computexpr.mspx


  25. José Joye says:

    What is actually going on with Windows embedeed CE 7. Just no news…. 🙁

  26. @Jose: It is coming! you should hear from us real soon. It has reached RTM internaly and we are preparing the launch.


  27. Shawn says:


    We have some kernel drivers written for Windows CE 6 that we want to try out on a WinPho 7 but we are really confused about how to even get the files onto the WinPho 7 phone.

    Right now we can copy the files to a CF card and run a program that installs the drivers on a WinCE 6.0 simulator. Works great.

    But we're not sure how to install thee drivers on WinPho 7 or whether Microsoft will even let us do this commercially.

    Can you shed some light on this please?



  28. @Shawn

    What you are trying to do is not a supported scenario. Drivers installation on Windows Phone 7 is restricted to the WIndows Phone devices manufacturers. I am  not sure what you are tryin gto do, but depending on your scenario, you might want to consider using Windows Embedded Handheld as your target instead:…/overview.mspx


  29. Maxi says:

    What about the development IDE? I am upgrading to VS2010 and TFS, which don't support smart device.

  30. @Maxi: This is not in the actual plans of record, you need to keep VS2008 to continue developping for Windows Embedded Compact 7 OS and Applications


  31. WilkoSki says:

    Olivier, the problem is the MS has back tracked on promises of support for Windows CE development in VS2010.  Everything in the product line is moving forward, we have VS2010, Silverlight 4, Windows Phone 7, TFS 2010 etc.  But Windows CE, no we are stuck on VS2008.  There are no new features being added to the Compact Framework for Windows CE devices, even the Mico Framework offers such things as WSDiscovery and WSMessaging, all things the NET CF needs.  The best thing MS ever did was to ditch the old embedded tools and bring embedded development under the VS umbrella, now the tools are fragmenting again and as developers we will be left stuck on TFS2005 and VS2008 for embedded development.  There is no benefit to remaining in the MS world for embedded development especially when other embedded tools from other camps are getting better and better. It is a pretty poor show in my book.  

  32. @WilkoSki

    I totally understand your point and agree that we are somehow behind regarding this, and that it would be good to have the latest and greatest VS and TFS support.

    We still have very high end tools with Visual Studio 2008 and Platform Builder 7 that allow for very advanced development and debugging. The .Net Compact Framework and SQL Compact have not evolved since last version of CE, but bear in mind that these are not directly tied as they are not part of the core of the OS the Windows Embedded team develops.

    Some tough decisions around prioritizations had to be made to deliver a solid OS platform but be sure that Developers are on top of our minds and that Development tools and App platforms and frameworks are at the center of the discussions and the ongoing work.


  33. dennis says:

    if it isn't dead, why you need to consider a title like that?

  34. @Dennis

    good question indeed :-). Short answer: because people assume it is dead while it is not. As a matter of fact Windows Embedded Compact 7, the new version of CE, has been released a couple months ago.


  35. CEisDead says:

    MS won't admit it, but its as good as dead.  Working with CE7 now, they have broken application compatibility badly.  We've been producing apps for years for CE5, CE6, and WM platforms – all broken now on CE7 requiring rework due to API changes.  Little to no support or info online for CE7 developers to deal with these changes.  I find CE7 bugs daily.  They have no ecosystem and the few people who have stuck by MS in this have now been burned by them…

  36. @CEisDead

    I hear you and the feedback is definitively taken. The investments Microsoft is doing in Embedded are considerable and growing. While the story doesn't seem straight today, this is something that we are working hard on. I hope we will soon be able to give you more insight. Stay tuned as I am sure the news will please you.


  37. Olivier, we heared from Intel they will  not develop any driver for their core i processors for WEC7. I guess this impacts the Intel Embedded Graphics Driver mainly, maybe also Ethernet interfaces in the chipset.

    What is your opinion to that? What restriction do you expect when running WEC7 on Core i?

  38. @Core I user

    I have not tried it myself, but I would expect the CEPC BSP to enable running Compact 7 on a corei proc based board. Obviously you would not be able to leverage any of the corei specific features as the integrated GPU…Other than that, I am not sure and wouldn't want to make what would be assumptions.

    I know Adeneo has a BSP for Atom Series for CE 6 and Compact 7, they might be able to help here.…/Intel


  39. WilkoSki says:


    Looks like MS has now officially ignored developer feedback and refused to implement support for Windows CE development in VS2010.  This still leaves the future of development on Windows CE uncertain.  It also conveniently removes the suggestion from the Most Voted list on the Connect site as they have closed it as Fixed but the comment indicates a refusal.…/no-support-for-windows-ce-and-compact-framework-development-in-vs2010

  40. @WilkoSki

    Microsoft is definitively listening at developers and customers. A team is working on plans to address these issues. we are at a point where lots of elements need to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately we cannot communicate yet on the outcome of the work that is being done as we don't want to promiss Mars if can only deliver the Moon.

    The Windows Embedded is investing in Windows Embedded Compact 7 and takes it very seriously. As a matter of fact the first QFE has just been released, first of a long series.…/details.aspx

    Play stay tuned as we should be able to discuss more about the plans and the future in the coming month or so.


  41. Kim Gregory says:

    Windows Embedded Compact 7 is now dead!

    Microsoft messed up when they posted their latest update on Feb 04, 2013.

    You can download the installer, but when you run it, the installer cannot find any of it's files on the Microsoft download site.

    See the post at:…/c4804e01-37c2-44e2-844b-344f9b4c3156

  42. framework4 says:

    So can a Windows 7.0 CE device run apps written for the older Mobile Windows AKA Pocket PC devices?

  43. @Kim Gregory

    Sorry I just noticed your comment… a bit late.

    I switched team and I need to be better at following what is going on here.

    If the issue is still not fixed, let me know so I can ping my previous team and know what's going on.

    – Olivier

  44. @framework4

    Short answer is no. Different frameworks versions, different toolset, different OS versions.

    – Olivier

  45. YARJAM@AOL.COM says:


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