Microsoft will start allowing developers to preview Windows 8 Embedded in the first quarter of next year, with plans to eventually release its embedded computing products in the quarters following the Windows 8 desktop version launch.
The next version of Windows Embedded Enterprise will release within one quarter after Window 8 becomes available, said Ben Smith, director of program management for Microsoft's Windows Embedded business, during a news briefing last week. Windows Embedded Standard will release within three quarters of the Window 8 launch, he said.
Microsoft's Windows 8 desktop version is expected to be released some time in 2012.
Smith declined to reveal what changes the new versions will include, but said they will use "natural user interface" technologies, a term Microsoft has used to describe products that rely on touch or speech to complete commands. Windows Embedded Standard will also run on ARM processors.
"Windows 8 not only represents potential innovation in the PC experience, but also in the world of specialised devices," Smith said. "We at Windows Embedded are working very closely with the Windows client team to bring that innovation to specialised devices."
Windows Embedded is a family of operating systems tailored to be used on specialised devices built with processors, such as kiosks, medical equipment and construction machinery. But Microsoft expects the scope of Windows Embedded to evolve as more devices including everyday objects like refrigerators and even thermometers become fitted with processors.
Now processors have not only become more powerful, but also cheaper in cost and physically smaller, Smith said. Improvements in connectivity also mean that devices can be constantly connected with the Internet.
This paves the way for "intelligent systems", Smith said, which involves taking everyday objects to collect data over a network that can then be used by a company or user to improve operations. An example of this could be a clinic, where all the medical equipment and computers are connected together over a network, allowing doctors to easily keep up-to-date medical records that can then be shared with the patient.
"In intelligent systems, data will be the new currency," he said. "We know the market is excited for intelligent systems and we are too."
The intelligent systems market already generates US$1 trillion in revenue annually, according to research firm IDC. But by 2015, the revenue is expected to double.