As previously reported, Windows XP Embedded offers hardware makers the opportunity to pick and choose from 10,000 components of the new operating system to help power a range of devices. Among the initial customers of the operating system are Bally's, which is using the software for a new slot machine, and NCR, which will use it in a next-generation ATM.
The release comes one month after Microsoft started selling the desktop computer version of Windows XP to consumers.
Windows XP Embedded was developed alongside the desktop version of the OS and shares the same core. But it also supports more add-ons than earlier embedded operating systems from Microsoft and allows for improved graphics and sound, said Keith White, senior director of Microsoft. Windows XP Embedded supports the latest version of Internet Explorer and other applications as well, he said.
"These non-PC devices are becoming smarter and much more connected," White said. "That ties in nicely to our .Net vision," he added, referring to Microsoft's effort to allow people to access software and services over multiple devices, including PCs, cell phones and personal digital assistants.
Microsoft is also changing the way it charges companies that use the operating system in their products. With past embedded versions of Windows, Microsoft would charge a different price depending on the type of device that was using the OS. With the new software, Microsoft will charge $70 for a single license, with discounts based on unit volumes instead of the type of product that incorporates the OS.
In an effort to woo developers, the software giant is also temporarily slashing the price of the kit necessary to develop devices based on Windows XP Embedded. For 90 days, the price will be $995, instead of the $2,900 that Microsoft had been charging for embedded-related developer kits.
Microsoft's embedded software competes with versions of Linux and embedded-only operating systems from companies such as Wind River Systems.
In September, Microsoft said it would deliver the software Nov. 28. The company originally set a target of releasing the software within 90 days of the desktop software.
With past embedded versions of Windows, Microsoft developed the desktop OS first and then later split it into components, resulting in a longer lag time for the embedded version and in less compatibility with the desktop OS. By contrast, Windows XP Embedded was developed alongside the desktop version and is compatible with Windows XP's programs and drivers.
Windows XP Embedded is one of several operating systems from Microsoft. Others include Windows CE .Net, an operating system used in items such as handheld computers and Internet-surfing appliances, and Windows .Net Embedded Server, which is used in server appliances such as network-attached storage.