Windows Embedded Standard is one of those products you use weekly, or even daily, but have likely never even heard of. When you go withdraw some money from an ATM, buy food from a fast food chain, or get an X-Ray at the doctor's office, it's very likely that the machine you interacted with was running Windows Embedded Standard.
So That's Cool, Um, How Does it Work?
Windows Embedded Standard is a customizable, componentized version of Windows, with the most recent version being Windows Embedded Standard 7, which is based on Windows 7. Standard 7 ships with a toolkit allowing developers to choose from over 150 different packages representing different features in Windows 7. Packages include Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, IIS, and network functionality as well as various languages. Using this toolkit, developers can include only the parts of Windows needed for their specialized device.
Standard 7 also differentiates itself from Windows 7 through the addition of Embedded-Enabling Features. Examples of this are custom branding and a custom shell, allowing the developer to include branding for a specific (non-Windows/Microsoft) company at start up and to easily boot into an application of his or her choosing, not showing the Windows toolbar or interface. There are also special write filters, which do not allow the end user to write anything to the disk, except where allowed by special exceptions. This can help to completely lock down the device.
The primary tool used by Windows Embedded Standard developers is Image Configuration Editor (ICE), which allows them to drag and drop the packages they need into a central "Answer File", which is an XML file that can be used to create and deploy Standard 7 images. Another tool is Image Builder Wizard (IBW), which acts as a basic wizard, prototyping, and deployment tool, allowing developers to easily and quickly test images and deploy images to one machine.
An example of how Standard 7 would be used is a ticket kiosk at the airport. That is a specialized device that has a specific requirements:
- Ability to print
- Network/Internet connectivity
- Custom branding and interface
- Secure and locked down
Using Standard 7, a developer can make sure to just include printing, networking, boot into a custom shell, remove Windows branding, and add write filters and install an anti-virus and firewall program to keep the device secure.
So, Where Else is it Found?
Some of the most popular device categories are listed below with examples of each category included.
Point of Sale/Service (POS)
- Cash registers
- Stadium displays
- Storefront advertising
- Ultrasound machines
- CT Scans
- Insurance agents
- Enterprise employees
- Set Top Boxes
- Display interfaces and controllers
- Photo printing kiosk
- Internet/email kiosk
How Can You Find it and Use it?
Windows Embedded Standard is an enterprise product and available to purchase through approved distributors. However, you can download a free trial from the product's website.