Just two weeks after releasing Windows Embedded Standard 2009 based on Windows XP, Microsoft said Tuesday that the next version -- code-named "Quebec" -- will be built atop the Windows 7 code base.
The news is significant, because it indicates that Microsoft is serious about making Windows 7 capable of running on devices with limited power. During the PDC keynote Tuesday, Microsoft Windows head Steven Sinofsky showed the audience a netbook (or sub-notebook) running Windows 7. Most netbooks currently ship with Windows XP or Linux.
Microsoft still uses Windows XP for its embedded platform, despite the operating system being 7 years old. The company hasn't been able to slim down Windows Vista enough to make it workable in embedded environments. There is an "Embedded Enterprise" version of Vista, but it has the same hardware requirements as the full OS and simply offers a customizable interface.
Sinofsky said that Microsoft has done a lot of work to fix the slowdowns and bulk introduced in Windows Vista. From boot times, to menu response, Windows 7 promises to be leaner and faster than its predecessor.
In addition, the operating system can be componentized -- an essential feature for embedded devices. Developers can pick the technologies and features they need in order to size the OS for their device, with only the drivers, services and applications they need.
By migrating to Windows 7, Windows Embedded Quebec will offer a number of important improvements over the aging XP code base, including multi-touch interface support, gesture support and Windows Presentation Foundation. Silverlight 2 and Internet Explorer 8 with private browsing will be included; Silverlight 1.1 and IE7 are currently offered in WES 2009.
Perhaps more importantly for developers, they can build applications for Quebec using Visual Studio 2010, just as they would for Windows 7, with full 64-bit support.
Microsoft hasn't set a release date for Quebec, but it will likely arrive around the time Windows 7 launches in early 2010.
But how does this affect non-embedded systems? The changes that Microsoft is introducing in Windows 7 to make it capable of being slimmed down will positively impact full PC use as well. Mike Nash, vice president of Windows Product Management at Microsoft, told BetaNews that Windows 7, even with its new features, will run equally as fast -- if not faster -- than Vista on the same PC hardware.