Microsoft Preps WinXP Embedded SP2, POS Version

The software giant Monday unveiled a technology preview of Windows XP Embedded SP2 with plans to release the final code by year's end, said Scott Horn, senior director of the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

The update will deliver all of the new security and management features of XP SP2 that was released in August, and will include new support in XP Embedded for Software Update Services patch management and DirectX 9 to enhance the multimedia experience, Horn said. Windows XP SP2 will also support Bluetooth networking and a quick boot feature to reduce startup and shutdown times of embedded devices.

"Our customers will find the additional functionality and security updates extremely compelling," said Mike DeNeffe, senior director of the Winterm Business Line at Wyse Technology. "The features available in SP2, such as improved Internet Explorer security and default Windows Firewall, will provide IT managers with more options to deploy thin clients in the way that best suits their complicated enterprise environments."

In addition, Microsoft will ship during the first half of 2005 Windows XP Embedded for Point of Service, a specialized Windows platform that will enable retail and hospitality establishments to simplify the setup, use and management of point-of-service systems, such as terminals and kiosks.

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The delivery of this standard point-of-service version of Windows will offer for the first time plug-and-play functionality that enables retail peripherals to be installed and configured as easily as USB devices plug into Windows XP for consumers.

These new features will enable companies using thin-client terminals or kiosks to easily and quickly add emerging technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and multimedia peripherals to their devices, and manage them just as they would any other Windows PC, according to Microsoft.

It will also make the embedded operating system easier to deploy and configure for both device manufacturers and systems integration partners BSquare and Venture Development.

"We expect significant adoption of Windows Embedded for Point of Service by retailers," said Scott Sedlik, vice president of marketing at BSquare, a systems integrator in the embedded systems market. "While XP Embedded provides a rich platform to create a broad range of smart devices, Microsoft's new platform enables retailers with a standardized peripherals support and the management tools to more effectively deploy and manage devices in the field."

ISV partner Altiris said the added security, management and point-of-service features will enable corporations running the company's desktop life-cycle management platform to extend management beyond desktop PCs. "What it means for us is that we can manage those devices, all of the POS systems, and we can deploy, track and manage them and keep them in a business-continuity mode," said Kirsten Ward, director of Altiris' global channel strategy.

Microsoft is trying to make its software more secure, manageable and easy to use in order to prevent Linux from gaining more ground in the embedded systems space See CRN story , Wyse's DeNeffe said.

"Microsoft is putting more emphasis on a robust and reliable embedded operating system and they're turning up the heat, driving new functionality at the operating system level," he said.