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Windows Embedded Compact 7 CTP Released

Microsoft today rolled out a community test preview (CTP) version of Windows Embedded Compact 7.

This componentized operating system -- the successor to Windows CE -- supports both consumer and enterprise hardware devices. It allows original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to select what they need for products such as smartphones, media players, ruggedized handheld devices and medical devices. The OS runs on either x86 or ARM silicon.

Windows Embedded Compact 7 even supports consumer slate devices. However, the full Windows 7 operating system is also a possible choice for OEMs building such tablet computers.

The point that Windows 7 can be used for slate devices was made by Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of the OEM Division at Microsoft, who spoke at Computex Taipei on Wednesday. The reason to use the full Windows 7 OS is to enable users to produce "creative content" on their tablet devices, Guggenheimer explained.

He showed off a number of Windows 7-based tablet prototypes (but no products) onstage at Computex Taipei. The prototypes included the Sierra Expo slate, an FIC device, the Hanban system from China and a Vila device from Korea. Taiwanese companies Asustek Computer Inc. and Micro-Star International Co. plan to sell tablet computers using Windows 7, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

Missing in action in Guggenheimer's presentation was the HP Slate tablet PC. Back in January, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had unveiled an HP Slate prototype device running on Windows 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. However, since that time, Hewlett-Packard has been mum on its tablet development plans using Windows 7. HP also has since bought Palm and announced plans to build a tablet computer using the Palm webOS.

Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO at Nvidia, told reporters at the Computex Taipei event that "Windows is too big and it's too full featured for smartbooks and tablets," according to an account by PC World. Instead, Huang touted the Google-developed Android OS as ideal for tablet PCs.

Guggenheimer acknowledged that equipment makers were "experimenting" with Android, but he expected that Windows 7 would eventually be seen as more valuable for tablets, according the Wall Street Journal's account.

As for OEMs using Windows Embedded Compact 7 for slate devices, Guggenheimer described some electronic-reader devices, including a Hanban book reader, Q Reader, a Toshiba device and a MiTAC Mio. Microsoft also showed a photo of the Asus Eee Pad EP101TC 10, using Windows Embedded Compact 7, in a press release.

The CTP of Windows Embedded Compact 7 comes with a set of developer tools, according to David Wurster, senior product manager of the Windows Embedded team. Those tools include the Visual Studio integrated development environment, Platform Builder (a Visual Studio plug-in), the Expression Blend tool for designers and various OS components, such as Internet Explorer, Flash, Media Player and DLNA. DLNA is an industry standard protocol for transferring media between devices. Another synchronization component is Microsoft AirSync, which allows developers to access information from Microsoft Outlook, such as calendar data, Wurster explained.

It's up to OEMs to create the user interface for their devices, so OEMs using Windows Embedded Compact 7 won't necessarily produce devices with the Windows 7 look and feel. Wurster said that by using Silverlight for Windows Embedded, OEMs can customize the experience for their target users.

The CTP of Windows Embedded Compact 7 is publicly available now for developers and can be accessed here.

Microsoft plans to move from CTP to a release-to-manufacturing version of Windows Embedded Compact 7, skipping a beta, according to Wurster. The RTM version is expected to be available sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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