Windows Embedded at Teched EMEA: why so little presence?

Teched EMEA is this week in Berlin. Thanks to Pierre, French Developer Evangelist from Microsoft France, to great embedded MVPs (Jason Tolley, Andy Wigley, Alexander Wechsler, Doug Boling, Johan Arwidmark and Jochen Dieckfoss), not forgetting Marco Bodoira, who won the embeddedSPARK contest last year and who is presenting a great session about his SPARK project, Windows Embedded is present at TechEd EMEA with a few sessions that will help you understand what Windows Embedded is, How Microsoft is moving forward in the embedded space, what the roadmaps look like and get to see some cool demos.

You can find all the sessions of the Windows Embedded track and those from other tracks that are cross-tagged on this page.

Some would argue that this track is a really small one, that there is no depth content, and that this is not good sign with regards to Microsoft dedication to Embedded. So let me explain why Windows Embedded is not as present as it used to be in the past at broad events.

Windows Embedded is a very specific portfolio of products that leverage Microsoft technologies tailoring them for specialized usage scenarios. Building a Windows Embedded device requires multiple steps and different skill sets.

For Windows Embedded CE/Compact, Windows Embedded Handheld and Windows Embedded Automotive, there are basically 4 types of contributors:

  • The hardware guy: designing and developing the hardware (one could go shop for some off the shelf solution but there is still someone who designs and builds the hardware at some point)
  • The BSP guy: an Embedded OS needs to be adapted to specific hardware (drivers, low layers for the OS), therefore, a team will be working on these lower stacks requiring knowledge of hardware, Assembly, C and C++ code and obviously a good knowledge of the OS and its tools
  • The OS Design guy: this one will integrate the OS components and optimize the OS for specialized scenarios
  • The Embedded application developer: well, this one can be many different developers. Windows Embedded CE offers different applications APIs and frameworks, such as Win32, ATL, MFC, COM/DCOM, .Net Compact Framework and Silverlight for Windows Embedded. While the tools and frameworks are similar to the ones found on Windows or on the Web, an Embedded developer needs to be aware of the hardware restrictions (limited memory, specific hardware, specific form factor (implying specific resolution and input paradigm).

For Windows Embedded Standard, Windows Embedded POSReady and Windows Embedded Enterprise, you have 3 types of contributors

  • The drivers guy: this one will develop Windows drivers for the specific hardware
  • The OS Design guy: this one will aggregate the OS component, optimize the OS for a specialized scenario, configure the embedded features of the OS (fast boot, pop-up windows management, write filters, …
  • The Embedded application developer: all Windows app dev technologies are available on these embedded platforms and therefore, a Windows developer or a Web developer can perfectly develop applications for these platforms. They would need to be conscious of the embedded context though: limited functionality from the OS, specific form factor (screen resolution and input method), limited resources (memory, CPU speed, GPU).

This means that when the Windows Embedded group goes out to an event to deliver technical content, we need to be careful about the audience and the type of content we want to deliver. Teched, PDC and MIX are great Microsoft events where developers, ITPros and designers from the Desktop and the Web world go to. If we wanted to bring our core embedded audience (the drivers guy, the BSP guy, the OS Design guy and the Embedded application developer guy), we would need to deliver both breadth and depth at the same time, which means… covering 8 products… for all these types of audiences … a LOT of sessions! Which we cannot afford at these Microsoft general developers/ITPros events.

We used to have an event, jointly organized with the Windows Mobile group, called MEDC (Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference). This event used to gather the Embedded and Mobile technical community yearly in Vegas and provided breadth and depth over a lot of sessions (I think at MEDC 2007 we had something like 250 sessions total). In addition there used to be some local versions of MEDC in the regions. MEDC was cancelled a few years ago for many different reasons, but the technical content that used to be delivered there is still needed…

The good news is that we are working hard at making this content available to you in different formats.  A great amount of content will soon be published online as this is a great way to scale and give access to valuable information and training material worldwide. You should also hear real soon from us about our plans with regards to events. Stay tuned as the news will be very exciting to all Embedded developers!