Just when we thought Microsoft had played all its cards this week at its WinHEC conference in Shenzen, today we are finding out that the Windows 10 project is much larger than some of us initially realized. We’ve reported on a truckload of Windows 10 for desktop news, we’ve reported on sprinklings of Windows 10 for phone news, and now we also have insights into apps, hardware, and availability to some degree. Today we find out some more news about Microsoft’s plan for Windows 10 and the Internet of Things.
Some may have thought that support for Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi 2 was the path Microsoft was going to adopt for IoT. However, the version of Windows 10 supported by the Raspberry Pi 2 appears to be a scaled down and customized version of Windows 10. Moving forward Microsoft will have an entirely new edition of Windows 10 creatively called “Windows 10 IoT”.
Within this “Windows 10 IoT” edition, there will be three 'classes', one for mobile devices, one for small devices, and one for industry devices. Please, note the absences of the term 'SKU' as Microsoft goes to great pains not to refer to the new classes as Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s). Perhaps for the best.
Unlike the much-debated disaster that was Windows RT, each class will be linked together with support for universal apps and drivers making them somewhat interoperable with each other. This level of interoperability extends the deployment options for app developers looking to target beyond desktops, laptops, tablets and game consoles.
While the idea of Twitter being on something like the HoloLens may not be that appealing, it does speak to the developer community that seems to be migrating at speed, away from the Windows platform. The ability to have a development experience be very similar while targeting a broad audience on various devices should not be overlooked. And now for the nitty gritty details.
Similar to Windows 10 32-bit on desktops, the Industry devices class will require x86 processors, 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. Beyond the requirements, Microsoft has yet to shed much light on how Windows 10 IoT will differ from ‘traditional’ Windows 10. There is speak on the use of services like Azure to offer deeper cloud integration, security and device-to-device connectivity, however.
Microsoft's is using mobile devices and Windows 10 IoT to make a more substantial branch from Windows 10. For mobile, Windows 10 IoT will retain only a subset of functionality from Windows 10. There will be a reduction in the requirements for storage and memory with 4GB and 512MB respectively put in place. Without the need for desktops, only the modern interface design language will be followed. While much of this follows the phone and tablet trends for computing, Microsoft is limiting this class to ARM processors only. Why the limitations when there are Intel-based tablets already on the market and rumors of a possible Intel-based phone? Microsoft has not yet made this clear, but we are sure more information will be waiting for developers at Build 2015.
It looks like Microsoft is using this class to target Point of Sales (PoS) kiosk and media center-like devices. In doing so, they are dropping most of the Windows 10 features and looking only to maintain universal app compatibility.
"To keep storage and memory costs low, this edition of Windows 10 does not include a Windows start experience or inbox apps. Instead, the device maker builds the device experience as a Windows universal app and configures the device to launch that app at boot, giving the device developer complete control over the device experience," Microsoft.
As the requirements for devices running this edition have lowered even further to 256MB of RAM and 2GB of storage, this edition does surprisingly support both ARM and x86 processors. Another nice tidbit about small devices is that Microsoft intends Windows 10 IoT for tinkerers and start-ups. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 IoT will be free for small device makers and commercial device builders but seemingly excludes deploying Windows 10 IoT within a company.
As much as we now know about Microsoft’s intentions for Windows 10 for IoT, there is a lot more we don’t know. With the explosion of knowledge from WinHEC, we can only imagine what new information we'll get at Build 2015.