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Microsoft launches an Internet of Things developer program

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article image Microsoft’s program aims to bring Windows and development tools such as the Visual Studio suite to a new class of connected devices

Microsoft has launched their Windows Internet of Things Developer program, the first in a series of programs aimed at promoting and educating developers in the use of Microsoft products and technologies for the creation of connected devices and Internet-of-Things applications.

Focussed on Windows programmers and embedded systems engineers as well as the hobbyist and ‘maker’ community, Microsoft’s program aims to bring Windows and development tools such as the Visual Studio suite to a new class of connected devices including low-cost platforms Intel Edison and Raspberry Pi that are attractive for both hobbyist and commercial embedded computing applications.

Microsoft seeks to combine the accessibility of the successful Arduino platform with the strong community support and proven experience base behind Windows and Visual Studio, allowing users to quickly iterate and expand on hardware and software designs using existing shields and sketches, with strong compatibility with the Arduino platform at both the hardware and software levels.

Announced last year, the Windows IoT Developer Program began with Windows support for Intel’s Galileo single-board embedded computing platform. The addition of the new Raspberry Pi 2 to the program has just been announced, including support for a new embedded Raspberry Pi 2 version of Windows 10, which will be freely available for embedded developers and makers who are members of the program.

The new developer program along with support for the Raspberry Pi and Galileo platforms is expected to introduce the use of embedded Windows and Visual Studio development to independent developers and the hobbyist and maker community.

Intel sells their Galileo development boards with a lightweight version of Linux through distributors, but the version of the Galileo board with Windows installed is only available when distributed through Microsoft.

Microsoft sees IoT devices as a huge opportunity both in terms of selling the embedded solutions that power those IoT devices as well as making sure the devices connect and pass their data back to a Windows Server on the backend, enabling them to potentially pick up some market share in the emerging IoT sector not only in the ‘Thing’ components, but also in the ‘Internet’ component.

The ultimate goal of such efforts is to take information collected from billions of devices and feed it into cloud services powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform. This is part of Microsoft’s cloud-heavy strategy, with the company previously pushing Windows Embedded as an IoT platform and a gateway to the rest of the company’s information-management fabric, mainly based around their Azure cloud services.

Having catered for a long time to commercial developers and manufacturers of embedded systems with the Windows Embedded Compact OS, which is used in a range of industrial devices, mobile handsets, health monitors and ATMs among other devices, Microsoft wants to now make sure these manufacturers know its embedded OS can also work for their IoT devices.

However, Microsoft has stressed that Windows Embedded will remain an important part of its product range. Windows Embedded Compact is a fully featured OS, which supports commercial devices, unlike the new developmental offerings; remains Microsoft’s only real-time operating system; and is the Windows operating system with the broadest set of ports including ARM and x86 architectures.

In moving to an ARM7 architecture, there’s a wider range of supported operating systems that can run on the Raspberry Pi 2. The processor upgrade means that two new operating systems come into view: Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10. Microsoft has recently announced it will be offering a Windows 10 build for the newest revision of the Raspberry Pi platform later this year, as part of its IoT Developer Program.

Microsoft and the Raspberry Pi Foundation have been collaborating for the last six months on the joint project. With Windows in the mix, this potentially opens up the Raspberry Pi to some Windows-centric developers who weren’t previously interested in creating applications for the device, as it would mean learning a new operating system or programming language.

Windows comes with all the development tools including Visual Studio, libraries and languages such as C# to add to the many tools that can already run on the Raspberry Pi such as Scratch and Python. Microsoft aims to bring their OS, development tools, services, and ecosystem to the Raspberry Pi community for free, intending to take Windows 10 applications that can be run on a Surface, a PC or a Windows Mobile phone, to now run on a Raspberry Pi as well.

This expands the hardware and software development possibilities for any new or existing IoT-enabled product. LX Group offers the team, the experience and the technology to bring ideas to life.

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