Windows Embedded at Teched EMEA: why so little presence?

Teched EMEA is this week in Berlin. Thanks to Pierre, French Developer Evangelist from Microsoft France, to great embedded MVPs (Jason Tolley, Andy Wigley, Alexander Wechsler, Doug Boling, Johan Arwidmark and Jochen Dieckfoss), not forgetting Marco Bodoira, who won the embeddedSPARK contest last year and who is presenting a great session about his SPARK project, Windows Embedded is present at TechEd EMEA with a few sessions that will help you understand what Windows Embedded is, How Microsoft is moving forward in the embedded space, what the roadmaps look like and get to see some cool demos.

You can find all the sessions of the Windows Embedded track and those from other tracks that are cross-tagged on this page.

Some would argue that this track is a really small one, that there is no depth content, and that this is not good sign with regards to Microsoft dedication to Embedded. So let me explain why Windows Embedded is not as present as it used to be in the past at broad events.

Windows Embedded is a very specific portfolio of products that leverage Microsoft technologies tailoring them for specialized usage scenarios. Building a Windows Embedded device requires multiple steps and different skill sets.

For Windows Embedded CE/Compact, Windows Embedded Handheld and Windows Embedded Automotive, there are basically 4 types of contributors:

  • The hardware guy: designing and developing the hardware (one could go shop for some off the shelf solution but there is still someone who designs and builds the hardware at some point)
  • The BSP guy: an Embedded OS needs to be adapted to specific hardware (drivers, low layers for the OS), therefore, a team will be working on these lower stacks requiring knowledge of hardware, Assembly, C and C++ code and obviously a good knowledge of the OS and its tools
  • The OS Design guy: this one will integrate the OS components and optimize the OS for specialized scenarios
  • The Embedded application developer: well, this one can be many different developers. Windows Embedded CE offers different applications APIs and frameworks, such as Win32, ATL, MFC, COM/DCOM, .Net Compact Framework and Silverlight for Windows Embedded. While the tools and frameworks are similar to the ones found on Windows or on the Web, an Embedded developer needs to be aware of the hardware restrictions (limited memory, specific hardware, specific form factor (implying specific resolution and input paradigm).

For Windows Embedded Standard, Windows Embedded POSReady and Windows Embedded Enterprise, you have 3 types of contributors

  • The drivers guy: this one will develop Windows drivers for the specific hardware
  • The OS Design guy: this one will aggregate the OS component, optimize the OS for a specialized scenario, configure the embedded features of the OS (fast boot, pop-up windows management, write filters, …
  • The Embedded application developer: all Windows app dev technologies are available on these embedded platforms and therefore, a Windows developer or a Web developer can perfectly develop applications for these platforms. They would need to be conscious of the embedded context though: limited functionality from the OS, specific form factor (screen resolution and input method), limited resources (memory, CPU speed, GPU).

This means that when the Windows Embedded group goes out to an event to deliver technical content, we need to be careful about the audience and the type of content we want to deliver. Teched, PDC and MIX are great Microsoft events where developers, ITPros and designers from the Desktop and the Web world go to. If we wanted to bring our core embedded audience (the drivers guy, the BSP guy, the OS Design guy and the Embedded application developer guy), we would need to deliver both breadth and depth at the same time, which means… covering 8 products… for all these types of audiences … a LOT of sessions! Which we cannot afford at these Microsoft general developers/ITPros events.

We used to have an event, jointly organized with the Windows Mobile group, called MEDC (Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference). This event used to gather the Embedded and Mobile technical community yearly in Vegas and provided breadth and depth over a lot of sessions (I think at MEDC 2007 we had something like 250 sessions total). In addition there used to be some local versions of MEDC in the regions. MEDC was cancelled a few years ago for many different reasons, but the technical content that used to be delivered there is still needed…

The good news is that we are working hard at making this content available to you in different formats.  A great amount of content will soon be published online as this is a great way to scale and give access to valuable information and training material worldwide. You should also hear real soon from us about our plans with regards to events. Stay tuned as the news will be very exciting to all Embedded developers!

Comments (6)
  1. Enterprise developer says:

    Hi Oliver!  Thanks for writing this blog – very interesting!

    Last summer Microsoft announced Windows Embedded Handheld, but as you discuss in this blog entry, we really haven’t heard much about it since.  I work for a Fortune 100 company heavily invested in current rugged devices running previous versions of Windows Mobile, as well as the .NET Compact framework.  (Disclaimer: the comments/opinions written here are exclusively my own.)  In the absence of any formal communication from Microsoft in this critical space, I thought I’d describe my own take here — and sorry in advance for being to long-winded about it!

    With all the hype surrounding Windows Phone 7 – while an important milestone for Microsoft in the mobile space, that platform as it currently exists does not meet the needs of rugged data collection devices, especially in a locked down enterprise setting.  Regarding the rugged and data collection space, I’ve heard various rumors (albeit through potentially unreliable/unofficial channels) about potential future directions of the Windows Mobile 6.5.x/Windows Embedded Handheld platform:

    – Something based on Windows Phone 7 and Silverlight exclusively.

    – Something based on HTML 5 and JavaScript.

    Both of these directions are concerning, to say the least.

    While HTML 5 is a great step forward for web apps, and absolutely needs to be supported in-browser, I simply cannot imagine trying to manage an application of the size and complexity of the ones we deal with written in HTML and JavaScript.  Web apps have their place, but the maintainability, performance, and power of static typing, the full .NET framework, and native/local apps are still critically important.  I think going this direction would be one of the fastest ways to drive companies away from a Microsoft –based platform!

    Silverlight is an *amazing* development platform, but we have already invested many millions of dollars and many years developing existing applications based on the promise of the .NET Compact platform.  While we would like to leverage Silverlight as a UI-layer technology for new applications whenever possible, I don’t see that we can justify rewriting applications when we have and continue to invest so much time and money in current .NET Compact/WinForms/native-based apps.

    Personally, I would love to see a variant of Windows Phone 7 designed for this space:

    – Support for the full .NET Compact framework (not just the particular classes/methods in Silverlight).

    – SQL Compact support.

    – Support for mixing Windows Forms and Silverlight in the same process, to provide a migration path for developers.  For example, Visual Studio 2010 was able to mix WPF with previous UI technologies.  Or, at a minimum we should be able to use non-UI layer DLLs (e.g. business logic, persistence logic, service integration logic, etc.) in both Silverlight and WinForms apps, an extension of the strategy defined by Shawn Burke in the recent "3-Screen Coding" PDC talk.

    – Support for native code.  Yes, a lot of it still exists!

    – Ability lock down devices so only authorized apps can be used.

    – Ability to remotely deploy software and manage devices.

    – Ability to configure advanced network settings.

    – Ability to access non-standard hardware such as barcode scanners, imagers, etc.

    – Visual Studio 2010 support (this should really even exist for Windows Mobile 5/6 too)

    Bottom line: I hope Microsoft recognizes the differing needs of locked down data collection devices vs. consumer phones, and I hope that we are not left out dry after investing so much in Microsoft’s existing platform.

    I hope to hear more (hopefully good) news from Microsoft about the future of this space!  (And thanks again for dedicating a blog to us forgotten mobile/embedded developers)

    A hopeful but concerned enterprise mobile developer

  2. Prabu says:

    Thank you very much for the informative post…..

  3. clkwong says:


    I am clkwong@ who is the founder and submitting information worker of Big Have International Space (ISiI) ltd..

    According to Reports show that up to 2015 about 2 Billion people will use the 4G mobile technology,

    so that the tablet will be next generation personal computer , are you agree??? and the windows embedded compact 7 will be the core of the tablet, are you agree???

    clkwong@ predicts that all products involved in Ltd/TD-Lte will be cost US$10 Trillion from coming 5 years starting at the end of 2010.

    reported by clkwong@ in Internet!!!


  4. @clkwong: I am not sure tablets will replace the actual personnal computers. For sure tablets will become as common as netbooks and widely used.

    You can be sure Microsoft sees this market as a huge opportunity and will be present with the right platform: the one that will provide the right user interface and support the right hardware.

    Bear in mind that Microsoft's also suggesting tablet should enable producing content, not only consuming it.

    Stay tuned as you will see lots of these devices running Microsoft technology in a near future.

  5. @enterprise developer

    Thanks a lot for your input. I forwarded it to the product team and they are very happy ro receive such feedback.

    When the Mobile Communication division of Microsoft (Windows Mobile) decided to go after the consumer market with Windows Phone 7, it has been decided to move the enterprise mobile business to the Windows Embedded group. This marks the commitment Microsof has in this area. We strongly believe the Enterprise Handheld vertical is a very important one and that needs are very specific for these specialized devices and different to the ones for the consumer market.

    You might have seen our Web site and our press release, and you can see that we do commit to this market really strongly.

    The first step for us was to rename Windows Mobile 6.5 into Windows Embedded Handheld and to guarentee the continuous availibility and support of the product for Enterprise Handhelds terminals manufacturers.

    Now we are in planning phase for future releases and we are definitively taking customer input into account to deliver the right set of features and support.

    Stay tuned as you should hear from our group about the future of our offer for the Handheld terminals.


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