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Microsoft Unveils Embedded NT 4.0.

Microsoft Corp has finally released Embedded NT 4.0 which it first previewed last November in its bid to become the operating system provider of choice for networking, telephony, printer, internet terminal and ATM applications. Microsoft claims that it has released the operating system now, because - in a "post PC world" - a volume market for high to mid-range embedded applications is just beginning to emerge and customers are looking for a Win32 compatible platform.

Embedded NT 4 is binary compatible with NT 4 Service Pack 5 according to Microsoft. However, included with the OS is a toolset that allows developers to tailor the modular OS to 'fit' a device. Vince Mendillo, lead product manager for Embedded NT, said that the ability to customize the OS led to cost and memory saving benefits for the developer. For instance, a system using the kernel, a protocol stack and a simple graphical user interface would use about 8Mb of RAM and require 12Mb of storage, according to Mendillo. Features special to the embedded OS include "headless operation" - in which no mouse, keyboard or display are required - and "diskless operation" - the system storage requirements can be supported via Flash chips or other solid state memory.

There are two reasons why an embedded version of NT has only recently become marketable, according to Mendillo. First, Microsoft expects between 150 and 160 million 32-bit embedded processors to be sold next year - meaning that the market for higher end embedded devices is growing as fast as the PC market. Second, the price of Flash memory - the storage of choice for embedded devices - is down to $1 a megabyte, making diskless operation features attractive and practical. "The market is just starting to emerge from a volume standpoint," Mendillo said. And Microsoft wants a piece of that action.

However, unlike the PC market, Microsoft has not been in the embedded market from the start. Players like Wind River Systems Inc and QNX Software Systems Ltd - whose systems Microsoft describe as "closed", "fragmentary and proprietary" - have a strong presence in the embedded market. And Java is also strong in the sector. Mendillo says that Embedded NT will support Java through the OS' Java virtual machine. Microsoft is banking on the success with this cut of NT because it says that customers want systems that interconnect and interoperate - and only Microsoft can offer that level of integration.

Mendillo said that the company was working on an embedded version of Windows 2000. This will incorporate features such as Active Directory, which, Mendillo said, has drawn interest from customers like Hewlett-Packard Co, Lucent Technologies Inc and Xerox Corp. The cost of Embedded NT 4 will vary, depending on the features provided, according to Mendillo. The OS is available now and he expects that it will cost between $120 and $700
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 11, 1999
Words:467
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