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Why would you want Windows for IoT anyway?

Mary Branscombe | Oct. 23, 2014
The IoT market is overcrowded, but a headless version of Windows has definite advantages if you're building your own hardware - and it could save you money.

"Our job is not to bring makers to Windows; this is about bringing Windows to makers. We have to make sure we have the right set of software on the right devices to make Windows attractive for making the devices they're doing. One of the key things we did was implement Arduino wiring and the additional wiring API work we've done for the second generation Galileo board builds even broader support. The beauty of the maker space and part of this desire to bring Windows to them is all these different boards have different problems they solve for you."

That support means you can plug in common Arduino prototyping shields and make them work with Windows. "It's part of our thinking about how to bring the best IoT technologies to Windows. There's an explosion of useful shields and the costs are coming down. We want to tie that together with the value of Windows," says Kumar.

For Kumar, that value is about what Windows already does, the number of peripherals it works with and the way that could simplify building IoT devices - just because it's Windows. "There's a great ecosystem," he points out. "There are a ton of these incredible peripherals that Windows brings that just work; you can get a Wi-Fi shield and find the code for it - or you can just hook it into Windows over USB and it just works and it's a tenth of the cost. You're not spending all day working out how you connect the sensors to the platform."

Goodhew says makers appreciate that already. "They love that the offering is full-blown, headless Windows, that has Arduino wiring - and has Visual Studio as a tool. "I'm at work; I can stop building apps and I can start building feeds [from devices]."

The old arguments over whether Windows is real-time enough for embedded work doesn't really apply, especially not with the move to more modern control systems.

"There are some hard real-time systems, but they're few and far between," Kumar points out. "Almost everyone who thinks they want real time actually wants fast - unless you have a turbine or a nuclear system where you're going to spend three years computing interrupt latencies. Unless you're in that category of people, Windows as an operating system can do a lot of things like offloading to GPU, so it hits a wider range of devices than people might expect."

The cost of a Windows board like the Intel Galileo or the MinnowBoard MAX isn't a problem either. Yes, you can buy a Raspberry Pi for $35 (or probably a lot less if you're ordering in bulk), compared to $299 for the Sharks Cover development board that Microsoft and Intel worked on together (even more so if you add in the full IO options).


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