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Microsoft bulks up XP for devices

The software giant releases a new version of Windows XP Embedded, the company's operating system for cash registers, ATMs and other embedded devices.

    Microsoft on Tuesday released an update to its version of Windows XP for embedded devices.

    Windows XP Embedded with Service Pack 1 resolves glitches discovered since Microsoft released the operating system last year and also adds new features to the product. The software is a modular version of Microsoft's flagship operating system that can be installed on embedded devices, such as cash registers, slot machines or ATMs. This embedded version uses the same code base as Windows XP, but Microsoft does not license the product for use on PCs.

    The Redmond, Wash.-based company also announced a six-month, $995 promotional price on kits for creating devices using Windows CE .Net and Windows XP Embedded.

    Analysts did not necessarily see Service Pack 1 as a good thing, contending that bug and security fixes should be separate from product updates.

    "Microsoft just cannot seem to find the discipline to keep features and fixes separate," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Michael Cherry. "I can see no reason why these have to travel together, and I think there are valid scenarios where an embedded developer wants only?the security fixes."

    Among the enhancements in the release: Remote Boot, for starting the device from a server; Device Update Agent, which is used to apply software updates; System Development Image Manager, a tool for deploying Windows XP Embedded run-time images; Footprint Estimator, for estimating the size of the operating system before it is added to the device; USB 2 support; and support for the .Net Framework.

    The .Net Framework, a key part of Microsoft?s overarching .Net development architecture, automates many development tasks when using the company?s Visual Studio.Net tools, and helps software run reliably and securely across multiple servers and computers.

    Analysts questioned whether Microsoft?s decision to use the full .Net Framework in Windows XP Embedded--as opposed to the smaller .Net Compact Framework--makes sense given the limited memory available in devices.

    "Why does the decision to use Windows XP Embedded (by device makers) rule out the ability to use the .Net Compact Framework?" said Cherry.

    Keith White, senior director of Microsoft's Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group, said the use of the .Net Compact Framework with Windows XP Embedded is a "possibility. We haven't made any decisions on that yet."

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