Microsoft releases Windows Embedded Compact 7 CTP refresh

Microsoft has released a refresh of its Windows Embedded Compact 7 community technology preview.

Microsoft has released a January refresh of its Windows Embedded Compact 7 community technology preview (CTP).

The updated CTP is available through Microsoft's Connect portal, which can be accessed here (requires Windows Live ID and sign-up). A Microsoft blog post suggests that the new CTP will provide "a peek at the upcoming Windows Embedded Compact 7 toolkit."

The exact release date for Windows Embedded Compact 7, which is the successor componentized operating system to Windows CE 6, seems somewhat unclear at this point. The CTP was first released back in June. At that time, Microsoft was predicting that Windows Embedded Compact 7 would appear in the fourth quarter of 2010. However, a recent blog post by veteran Microsoft observer Mary-Jo Foley tracked down a release date in the "April-May 2011 timeframe."

The release might be sooner than that. David Wurster, Microsoft's senior product manager for Windows Embedded, explained earlier this month that Windows Embedded Compact 7 is scheduled to be released later this quarter, with products following in the latter half of 2011.

"In the second half of this year, you're going to see more stuff around Compact 7, designs and stuff," Wurster said in a Jan. 13 telephone interview.

Windows Embedded Compact 7 supports x86, MIPS and ARM architectures, typically for mobile and industrial devices, as well as tablets. Microsoft announced at this year's Computer Electronics Show that it planned to port its next-generation Windows desktop operating system (possibly "Windows 8") to ARM-based processors running on PCs, but it's unclear at this time how that decision might affect the Windows Embedded team at Microsoft, which, in any case, does not work on PC technology.

Microsoft has supported ARM with its embedded and mobile operating systems for well over a decade, Wurster explained.

"Windows Embedded CE is a 12-and-a-half year old operating system, and that has supported ARM that entire time," Wurster said in the phone interview. "When you look at solutions that supported ARM last year that are now on the market today, you have our Windows Phone, Windows Mobile operating system or you have Windows Embedded CE. There was a lot of shared code between Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded CE, so we have that code base. And then we have the core, which is an x86 code base."

Wurster explained that Microsoft's mobile and embedded operating systems share some code, but Microsoft has two separate code bases for those OSes. Consequently, features such as touch user interfaces are implemented somewhat differently by developers.

"We have two separate code bases. We have the code base that CE and Mobile are on and then we have core Windows code base," he said. "So there are different implementations -- similar but different implementations of touch in our CE and Phone code bases. They have similar capabilities but implemented slightly differently. But you still end up with, in some cases, single-point touch -- where you use a single finger for panning or flicking. In other cases, you have multipoint touch like you'd see on Phone 7 today."

The new Window Embedded Compact 7 OS will have a number of improvements, according to the Microsoft Connect description. Developers can create rich UIs by tapping into the Microsoft Silverlight for Windows Embedded platform. The OS will support tabs, panning and zoom utilizing Adobe Flash 10.1. Windows Device Stage will enable connections to Windows 7-based devices. In addition, there will be support for high-definition streaming media via a "new media library manager."

Earlier this year, Microsoft released Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 and a beta version of Windows Embedded POSReady 7.

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