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May 26, 2020

Build your IoT devices with Windows for IoT: a comprehensive platform for every device developer

Embedded computing has been around for a number of years. Recent advances in computing such as artificial intelligence, more powerful sensors, and container technology are unlocking new scenarios and creating new paradigms for device developers. As Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) become mainstream, device builders can enable intelligent edge- devices that gather data and analyze it locally. With AI/ML, there is continuous learning and an improved ability to predict outcomes. But to fully benefit from this new paradigm, embedded developers need to understand how to design for containerized workloads and need a platform that can support devices today and in the future.

At Microsoft Build 2020, we were excited to announce a broad range of updates to meet the needs of every IoT device developer—from those building a new embedded cloud-connected device or an intelligent edge device running AI/ML workloads, to OEMs looking to modernize existing devices. Key updates include the following, with more details below:

  • Greater integration with Azure by enabling Linux modules with Azure IoT Edge on Windows
  • Convergence of Windows 10 IoT Core and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
  • Continuing innovation with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise with reduced OS footprint and new appliance capabilities
  • Support to modernize legacy applications with Windows CE App Container general availability
  • Updates to Robot Operating System (ROS) on Windows

Greater integration with Azure by enabling Linux modules with Azure IoT Edge on Windows

Since introducing Azure IoT Edge support for Windows at Build 2019, we heard your feedback around the need to leverage existing Linux modules on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. This includes the Linux version of Azure IoT Edge, Linux modules available today in the Azure Marketplace, and custom Linux workloads.

We also believe that it is extremely important to make it easy for your existing Windows investments to integrate with Linux modules. We intend to deliver this capability via public preview later this fall, followed by general availability in 2021.

Convergence of Windows 10 IoT Core and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Device builders have given us extensive feedback on Windows 10 IoT Core as well as Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. With Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, embedded developers like the full featured off-the-shelf operating system, large Win32 application ecosystem, choice of enterprise-grade management options, and support for Azure IoT Edge to enable advanced cloud scenarios. These capabilities enable device builders to bring devices to market quickly and ensure that devices are stable and secure for the long term.

As we look at the challenges faced by device builders for building, managing, and supporting IoT devices, we hear the need for more silicon choices, smaller operating system footprint, more appliance capabilities, and improved support for container technology. We are excited to share that going forward, there is one OS release for Windows for IoT, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise that can address these needs. In addition, we expect to have a Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release for Windows 10 IoT Enterprise in 2021.

Partners building with Windows 10 IoT Core (1809 build) can leverage Windows 10 IoT Core Services (supported until Jan 2029) for current solutions. Our partners, including ASUS and Avnet, have enabled NXP’s i.MX8 SoCs with Windows 10 IoT Core. Going forward, partners with Windows 10 IoT Core deployments on x64 and ARM64 silicon can transition to Windows 10 IoT Enterprise to build, support, and commercialize their solutions.

Continuing innovation with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Over the past 12 months we have added multiple new capabilities to Windows for IoT products, and we are continuing to invest in expanding these capabilities. It is exciting to see that partners across industries are adopting Windows 10 IoT Enterprise to enable innovative solutions. Democracy Live and Dover Fueling Solutions are examples of partners enabling secure, accessible, and empowered solutions with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. Today we are excited to announce new capabilities that continue to meet the needs of our customers and empower them to build smart, secure IoT devices.

NXP i.MX8 Support

With the next release, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise will be available on NXP’s i.MX8 processors in addition to existing support for Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm processors. NXP is a leading silicon choice for IoT solutions across many verticals. We are excited to see what partners build with i.MX8 and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. Partners in the EEAP program can download private preview later this year and it will be generally available in 2021.

Reducing the footprint of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Windows 10 IoT Enterprise brings the full power of Windows 10 Enterprise for use in dedicated devices such as kiosks, retail point of sale, smart gateways, robotics, and many other device types. We continue to focus on enhancing these capabilities for dedicated devices and helping OEMs to optimize their IoT Enterprise image and footprint with the recently published image optimization guideline in the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise manufacturing documentation.

Using these best practices and instructions, device builders can significantly reduce the operating system footprint, thereby expanding their market opportunity. As we continue to invest in Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, we expect to enable even smaller footprint devices while ensuring that the full power of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise remains intact.

Cloud-managed updates with the new Windows 10 IoT Enterprise Services

Increasingly, device builders are looking for ways to provide an appliance-like experience to their customers. Building on the success of Device Update Center (DUC) for Windows 10 IoT Core Services, we intend to bring DUC to Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. DUC allows device builders to validate and publish updates to the Windows OS, IHV drivers, and OEM specific files or applications on individual device models or classes of devices prior to releasing those updates to the customer’s fleet of deployed edge devices. With DUC, device builders can maintain control over OS image updates and provide visibility and control to solution operators for when and how updates get installed. The preview of this new service will be available in early 2021.

Empowering a better appliance experience on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Last spring, we released the shell launcher v2 feature in the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 1903 update, which allows device builders to leverage Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications within their custom shell environment. This includes Windows experiences that are built on UWP such as the new Touch Keyboard and Settings app. The feature enables customers to use an UWP app as their custom shell, providing an improved appliance experience and better usability. Based on customer demand, we have added this feature to the May update of the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC version.

Microsoft Edge browser on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise

Last year we announced a new Microsoft Edge browser, based on the Chromium engine, with world class compatibility, performance, security, privacy, and new features designed to deliver improved web experiences. We are excited to bring the new Microsoft Edge browser to Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. Our ecosystem partners can preview and test Microsoft Edge on the semi-annual-channel (SAC) release of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise through Microsoft Collaborate. It will be generally available on the SAC release of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise later this year.

Browser is one of the most popular apps for kiosks, digital signage, and other appliance devices. We are actively working to enable a kiosk mode experience with the new Microsoft Edge and assigned access in upcoming Windows 10 releases. The insider preview program for this new capability will be available later this year, and it will be generally available next year.

Support to modernize legacy application: Windows CE App Container general availability

At Build 2019, we announced support for technology to migrate Windows CE applications to Windows 10. Since then, more than 130 partners have enrolled in the preview program to try this technology. Partners looking for a way to modernize their CE applications will be able to use Windows CE App Container starting in Fall 2020.

With Windows CE App Container, many customers can run their existing CE applications on top of Windows 10 IoT Core with supported x64 or ARM32 processors. This provides customers the ability to move to modern hardware and slowly transition their CE application to run natively on Windows 10 and take advantage of recent OS improvements. When released, this feature will only be available as part of Windows 10 IoT Core Services.

Robot Operating System (ROS) on Windows

Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is a great choice for industrial and retail automation using robots as it offers unparalleled security and manageability. In May 2019, we announced support for the Robot Operating System (ROS) on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise and Windows 10 Desktop. Since then, we have been doing work to make it easy for developers to create their own ROS-based applications.

For those new to ROS development, the VS Code Extension for ROS is a great starting point as it provides out-of-box capabilities to ease ROS development. Once you are ready to move to production, you can easily configure Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Simulation, and Continuous Delivery (CD) for your ROS applications using either Azure DevOps or GitHub Actions. Running tests in simulation is a critical step in your build pipeline to ensure that your robot behaves as expected in environments in which it would be deployed.

The Azure Pipeline service, coupled with the Azure VM template for ROS on Windows, enables you to bring up the simulator of your choice and easily weave in simulation-based tests into your CI/CD pipeline on Azure DevOps, thus ensuring the validity and stability of your build with each code change you make. Microsoft enables you to build your robotic applications faster by providing you with the same familiar toolsets in VS Code and Azure DevOps to enable you to go from development to deployment.

Following our support announcement for ROS on Windows, we are excited to see partners like Clearpath Robotics—an OEM manufacturing ROS-based mobile robot—begin offering Windows as an option on their Unmanned Ground Vehicle(UGV) family of robots, thereby offering their customers the choice of operating system while buying their robots. Other partners like HIWIN—a manufacturer of motion-control systems—have adopted ROS on Windows in their production facility so they can easily leverage speech and vision cognitive Azure services on their robots. ABB, a leading supplier of industrial robots, has enabled their customers who use ROS on Windows to seamlessly integrate with their proprietary robotic software.

Learn more about Windows for IoT

With Windows for IoT and earlier versions of Windows embedded, we have been part of the embedded computing evolution for over two decades. We are proud that our technology is deployed across industries and across mission-critical applications to power millions of embedded devices.

We continue to invest in the platform to power the next generation of IoT devices and cannot wait to see what innovative IoT devices and solutions you will build with these updates. You can review demos and find additional information through these pre-recorded sessions: