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Microsoft to release Windows NT for embedded applications

Intended for manufacturing, networking equipment, and various other devices, NT Embedded will further extend Microsoft's influence.

Microsoft plans to release a version of its Windows NT operating system tomorrow for use in so-called embedded settings.

The new version of NT, originally discussed last fall, is targeted at specialized markets, such as manufacturing, networking equipment, and point-of-sale devices. Microsoft plans to sell the software through third-party device makers, often called original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

Microsoft's latest Windows operating system variant is tailored for use in devices such as network routers and switches, industrial machines, and health care equipment, for example. Copier giant Xerox intends to use the software within its document management systems for corporate offices. 3Com has also pledged to utilize the software within its network switching hardware.

Windows NT Embedded 4.0 enters a market dominated by numerous small firms, such as Wind River Systems, QNX Software Systems, and Integrated Systems, among others.

Release of an NT version for embedded settings furthers the aim of the Redmond, Washington-based software giant to extend its Windows franchise into new markets.

Investment bank Dain Rauscher Wessels estimated in a recent report that of the approximately $3 billion in embedded software development last year, only a fraction--about $400 million--consists of tools made by commercial developers such as Wind River.

The market is expected to grow by up to 50 percent over the next four years, according to estimates by the financial firm.

Industry consultant Gartner Group predicts that 15 percent of embedded systems designs for devices costing more than $5,000 will include some form of NT Embedded by the end of 2002, increasing to 30 percent by 2005.

The NT Embedded software will be sold as an operating system "run-time" and development kit, allowing third parties to tweak the software as needed for a particular device. The next version of the software will be based on the company's forthcoming Windows NT upgrade, called Windows 2000. The Windows 2000 embedded version is expected by the end of 2000, according to Microsoft executives.

Products based on the current 4.0 release are expected to debut by the end of the year, said Vince Mendillo, lead product manager for Windows NT Embedded.

The embedded version of NT is available in different pricing models--two based on the workstation version of the operating system and two based on the server version, Mendillo said.

Integrator Avnet plans to distribute the software. Others that have pledged to build devices based on NT Embedded include Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices, and Lucent Technologies.