Windows Embedded road map may bypass Vista

The planned successor to the embedded version of Windows XP may bypass Windows Vista and instead be based on its next version, codenamed Windows 7.

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The planned successor to the embedded version of Windows XP, due from Microsoft two years from now, may bypass Windows Vista and instead be based on the oft-maligned operating system's own successor, which is codenamed Windows 7.

Microsoft had indicated last fall that the replacement for Windows XP Embedded would use Vista as its core operating system. But in an interview last week, Ilya Bukshteyn, director of marketing for the Windows Embedded product line, said there is a good chance that the next embedded OS - codenamed Quebec - will instead be engineered around Windows 7.

"To date, we are certainly working with Vista," Bukshteyn said. But, he added, "if there is an opportunity to get newer technologies in faster, and the customers want it, we may skip Vista."

That may be possible, given that Microsoft earlier this month appeared to drop several hints that Windows 7 might arrive next year.

If so, that could give the company's Windows Embedded developers enough time to re-engineer Windows 7 for use in the next embedded operating system, which will be called Windows Embedded Standard under a new naming scheme that Microsoft announced Tuesday while detailing its embedded product plans.

Windows 7 reportedly will be based on a new MinWin microkernel, which, as the name implies, is a fraction of the size of Vista's kernel. In fact, MinWin is so tiny that it lacks a graphics subsystem, according to a presentation done by a Microsoft engineer last fall.

The smallness of the microkernel would fit the minimalist nature of Windows Embedded, which is designed for use in handhelds and specialised devices, such as point-of-sale terminals.

In contrast, much of the criticism around Vista involves the size of its massive 4GB core footprint, with analysts from Gartner being the latest to weigh in with a call for Microsoft to downsize the Windows code base.