Microsoft Offers Test Version of Windows XP Embedded

Microsoft Corp. handed developers a working copy of its Windows XP

operating system for embedded systems, debuting its second operating

system for devices such as handheld computers and set-top boxes this

month.

The beta 2 release of Windows XP Embedded gives hardware makers the

tools needed to build operating systems for such devices as server

appliances and automated industrial machines based on Microsoft's

Windows XP Professional desktop operating system.

"If it's in Windows XP, then it will be in Windows XP Embedded," said

Kelly Meagher, product manager for Microsoft's embedded and appliance

platforms group. "Developers can access the same technology, but in a

componentized version."

An embedded operating system is built as a set of components, allowing

developers to pick and choose which pieces of the operating system they

need for certain devices. Windows XP Embedded includes more than 10,000

components, the company said. Some of those include such features as

Microsoft's instant messaging technology, Windows file protection and

Microsoft's encrypted file system.

Windows XP Embedded will feature support for a range of networking

technologies such as 802.11 and variations of that wireless protocol.

The operating system also supports the Kerberos security standard as

well as USB and Universal Plug and Play.

Microsoft said it would release the final version of the embedded

software soon after the anticipated Windows XP operating system

officially debuts on Oct. 25. Products running Windows XP Embedded are

expected to hit the market as early as January 2002, the company said.

Microsoft this month also released a Beta 2 Version of the next

generation of the Windows CE operating system, code-named "Talisker."

That embedded operating system will run on Microsoft's "Stinger" smart

phone and the AutoPC -- a computer terminal installed in a car

dashboard -- Microsoft has said. The Redmond, Washington software maker

also has an embedded operating system based on the Windows NT 4.0

kernel.

The software maker's range of embedded offerings pits it against a

number of competitors. Windows CE targets the market currently

dominated by such software makers as Palm Inc. The company also faces

competition from companies that build their own embedded systems in

house and other market leaders such as Wind River Systems Inc., which

provides embedded systems for such markets as mobile phones and medical

equipment makers.

Market researchers said Windows XP Embedded is specifically aimed at

the market for server appliances, such as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s

Cobalt Cube, a low-cost, Linux-based server dedicated to individual

serving functions. That puts Windows XP Embedded in competition with

similar products running open source operating systems, according to

Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with Guernsey Research.

"The competition here is mainly Linux and FreeBSD," Le Tocq said.

Microsoft has not detailed any new products that its development

partners plan to ship running the embedded system. The company did sign

on two new partners that will develop products based on the embedded

system -- Wincor Nixdorf GmbH and Co. KG and Retalix Ltd.

The software maker has not discussed any of its own expected products

running Windows XP Embedded, though it has eyed such devices as

residential gateways, advanced set-top boxes and retail point of sale

devices.

"It's too early to say which devices will be built with the operating

system," Meagher said.

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