June 18, 2010
Microsoft has announced plans to add to its mobile software platform arsenal with the launch of a brand called Windows Embedded Handheld.
The Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft already has two software platforms for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use in their enterprise handheld devices: Windows Embedded CE (the Windows Embedded Compact 7 community technology preview was announced June 1) and Windows Mobile. The Windows Embedded Handheld software platform is geared at boosting mobile enterprise workforce productivity by enabling users to capture, access, and act on business-critical information, according to a statement by the company. The first Windows Embedded Handheld release is scheduled for this year and will build on the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform with management and security features, as well as enhanced protection for existing enterprise investments in line-of-business applications on devices, the company said. The new platform is the starting point in a transition in terms of how Microsoft will be supporting the ruggedized class of devices, which have relatively unique requirements in terms of lifecycle, said David Krebs, director of the mobile and wireless practice at VDC Research. These devices are replaced every four or five years and are used for mission-critical applications designed to withstand inclement conditions in industries such as transportation, supply chain, public safety, and service, Krebs said. Microsoft came to a "fork in road," Krebs added, since it isn't getting enough traction in the smartphone space and has been losing share, so the company decided to separate its activities. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made the announcement during Motorola's launch event Thursday for its ES400 enterprise digital assistant (EDA) in New York. The investments in the enterprise handheld device market "will provide proven management and security functionality, while giving customers confidence that investments in handheld enterprise devices and line-of-business applications will be protected over time by an extended support lifecycle," Ballmer said. Ballmer also said that Windows Embedded will continue to support developer tools used in building applications and on devices, including Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Forms. An updated Windows Embedded Handheld platform based on Windows 7 technologies (Windows Embedded Compact 7) will be released in the second half of 2011, which Ballmer said will have enhanced features and functionality for network enterprise devices. With the second release, the company will provide a "migration path" for these applications with Microsoft tools and technologies. While some industry observers said the announcement could create confusion and fragmentation, Microsoft is "doing a branding and creating a separate SKU for this specialized class of device,'' said Krebs, and also telling the developer community it will continue to support the applications they develop as well as the tools they're using to develop them. "They're not going to rip and replace everything they've installed and start fresh. Enterprise lifecycle support is important to them and back-end compatibility, and that's the message Microsoft is trying to [emphasize] with this particular SKU." VDC Research is projecting the number of device shipments will exceed 4.3 million by 2014, almost double the amount of shipments in 2009. The Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile platforms accounted for 87% of these 2009 shipments.
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