Windows Embedded "Quebec", as the next version is called, will be based on Windows 7 and will work with Microsoft's latest technologies, including Silverlight 2 and Windows Presentation Foundation. It will also be compatible with Visual Studio 2010.
Additionally, it will feature Microsoft's BitLocker drive encryption and key management security technology, and, like Windows 7, 64-bit support.
"Windows Embedded 'Quebec' will provide OEMs with the ability to further differentiate their devices by taking rich user experiences to the next level," said Kevin Dallas, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Embedded Unit, in a statement Tuesday from the Embedded Systems conference in Boston.
Microsoft offered developers their first peek at Windows 7 this week.
The company said the next version of its franchise OS will feature improved compatibility and will be more user friendly than Vista. Microsoft said it plans to release a trial, or beta, version of Windows 7 early next year.
The desktop version of Windows 7 will feature a new taskbar and a streamlined interface that will make users' most frequently used programs—such as a music player or a word processing app--easier to access, according to Microsoft. It will also include a new feature, Device Stage, that's designed to increase compatibility between the host computer and commonly used peripherals such as printers, phones, and digital cameras.
The company also said, "Windows 7 will offer more options than ever to customize and personalize Windows-based PCs with styles that match the user's personality," though it provided little detail.
Perhaps most significantly, Microsoft said applications that are compatible with Windows Vista will work with Windows 7 because the two operating systems share the same basic architecture. "Windows 7 extends developers' investments in Windows Vista," the company said in a statement.
Upon its debut in January of last year, Vista was roundly criticized for its lack of compatibility with applications built for the older Windows XP operating system. The problem was partly to blame for the fact that few businesses have upgraded from XP to Vista, even though Vista has now been on the market for almost two years.
"With our new approach to planning and development we now have a great foundation for our partners to start learning and innovating on this exciting new version of Windows," said Steven Sinofsky, senior VP for Microsoft's Windows Engineering Group. Microsoft has established a Web site where developers can learn more about building applications for Windows 7.