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Windows Embedded sets sights on Asia

Posted: 21 Apr 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Windows Embedded? consumer electronics? connected consumer device? point of service?

With the looming U.S. economic recession, there is little wonder why the market focus is now on Asia. The Word Bank assessed that economies of developing countries will not be directly affected by either the U.S. subprime crisis or economic recession due to the domestic dynamism seen in countries such as China and India.

Market forecasts from the semiconductor segment to the consumer electronics arena also indicate that Asian markets, particularly China, will enjoy steady, if not huge growth in the next five years.

Recognizing the market potential of the region, Microsoft Corp. is introducing its embedded business offerings to Asia. The software giant has laid out a strategic roadmap for its Windows Embedded Business, renaming its family of products and outlining new solutions in key device categories.

John Boladian, lead product manager for Windows Embedded at Microsoft Asia Pacific and Greater China, told EE Times Asia that the company sees a huge market potential for Windows Embedded in the region, driven by the growth in connected consumer and enterprise devices. The trend, he said, will generate greater demand for commercial embedded OS and development tools to help product manufacturers speed time to market.

"China (including Hong Kong) is currently our fastest growing market in APAC and was a key driver of the 40 percent y-on-y revenue increase we saw in APAC in the last fiscal year," Boladian said.

Globally, Microsoft estimates 3 billion embedded devices will be shipped in 2008, with about two-thirds of these connected to a network, management service, navigation or map set of information. With strong demand from the CE market, the company expects the global market for connected consumer devices to grow at a rate of 50 percent per year between 2006 and 2010.

Shift to China
Part of Microsoft's strategic moves in the region is the $75 million investment on R&D for Windows Embedded in fiscal year 2008, which led to the creation of the Microsoft Embedded Systems Development Center (MESDC) in Beijing.

"The MESDC, located within the Microsoft Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in China, aims to leverage embedded systems engineering talent in China to support global product R&D, drive development of new and innovative features of Microsoft's embedded operating systems, and accelerate collaboration between the U.S.-based Microsoft product groups and their counterparts in the ATC," Boladian said.

The center also supports the needs of the active Windows Embedded partner ecosystem in Asia Pacific by engaging with OEMs and providing high visibility of embedded systems projects.

Boladian also expressed confidence in the Asian talent, saying embedded engineering excellence in consumer devices is in Asia, especially in China. He added that MESDC intends to work with the local industry on hot consumer segments and deliver innovative solutions to fuel the transition to service-oriented devices.

Microsoft believes China's engineering talents could provide the essential skills needed by MESDC, Boladian said. Once embedded systems engineers are onboard MESDC, Microsoft will invest in knowledge transfer between the center and the product teams based in its headquarters in Redmond, Virginia.

Embedded vision
Microsoft's first release under the new strategy is the Windows Embedded Standard, the successor of Windows XP Embedded. The latest Windows Embedded Ready product line for key device categories includes the next generation of Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS)Windows Embedded POSReady.

"Windows Embedded envisions to help its partners to build smart, connected, service-oriented devices that give users a rich connected experience. What we offer are products with a core software platform that can expose service components which in turn can expose services back to the enterprise," Boladian said.

This, he believes is the future for embedded devices, especially in the retail systems area where it will be most helpful in improving manageability at the checkouts.

In addition, as more embedded devices become connected to a network, management service, navigation or map set of information, Microsoft will continue to offer new and proven technologieslike cellcore, VoIP and multimedia capabilitiesto help OEMs and developers create smarter and more connected devices in the home, on the road and at work.

WEPOS in retail, hospitality segments
One of Microsoft's most successful embedded technology applied in the retail and hospitality industries is the WEPOS solution. Boladian explained that the wide adoption of WEPOS is due to retailers who are now more open to using technology to support more sophisticated in-store systems. Kiosks, mobile devices and self-service checkouts have extended the POS approach to satisfy customers' demands. In comparison to retail POS devices that utilize Windows Embedded CE and Windows XP Embedded, WEPOS is optimized with features and components required for full-function POS devices in retail and hospitality industries.

A version of Windows XP with Service Pack 2, WEPOS is easy to use and includes technologies that enable present and future retail scenarios, and provides low lifecycle costs.

"Our OEM manufacturers and retailers choose WEPOS for several reasons. Firstly, WEPOS is the first POS operating system platform to provide plug-n-play functionality for retail device peripherals. Having a standard platform and familiar management technologies make it easy to set up, use, and manage their business functions. Secondly, retailers can create more compelling customer interactions through underlying support for technologies such as browsers, multimedia, and networking as well as innovative retail applications and device peripherals. Lastly, it also provides low retail POS lifecycle costs by decreasing the costs of operation, application development and deployment, servicing and maintenance, and POS hardware, all while providing 10 years of product supportthe longest published product support lifecycle in the POS systems industry," Boladian said.

Targeting to break into the Asian market, Microsoft is building momentum on the local front with Asia Pacific partners Posiflex, Firich, Protech Systems, EBN Technology and Datavan supporting WEPOS on many of their platforms. Boladian added that Microsoft has the support from its global partners such as IBM, Fujitsu and Epson, with more than 50 of them have developed WEPOS compatible solutions. Currently over 50 partners are developing new WEPOS compatible solutions, he disclosed.

To maintain its position in the embedded arena, Boladian said the company strives to continue offering Windows Embedded OS, such as Windows Embedded CE 6.0, that drive the next generation of smart, connected service-oriented devices to help create connected experiences for consumers. Microsoft also plans to expand its Windows Embedded partner ecosystem of chipmakers, distributors, OEMs and more to provide resources and tools that speed development of devices.

- EE Times Asia

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