Signs that the goalposts are moving again were - appropriately enough - embedded in the spin surrounding Microsoft's push for CE and NT Embedded at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose today. The company came up with quite a lot of not very obviously interesting stuff designed to put some oomph back into the somewhat underperforming embedded and appliance division marketing spiel, but way, way down at the bottom there was a strange blurt about the operating system that comes after Whistler.
Or at least, one of the operating systems. Lead product manager for Microsoft embedded and appliance platforms division Deanne Hoppe doesn't seem to have entirely achieved comprehension in the pre-announcement interview with a certain newswire service (matter of fact, we've been holding off all day in the hope of figuring out what the darn story meant), but there was one fascinating claim: "Although Microsoft does not have a componentized version of its new Windows 2000 corporate operating system, Hoppe said the company planned to roll out such a product shortly after the launch of the next iteration of Windows in the second half of next year."
Componentized? We at The Reg are of the view that Microsoft does not entirely grasp what most of the rest of the world understands by such a term, but this does appear to be a clear commitment to producing something that is rather different from the typical Microsoft OS as currently constituted. It clearly is not Blackcomb, because it's coming out of the embedded division, so we can maybe peg it as a separate, parallel track.
Take a second look at the Windows for Warfare piece we did last week, wonder if it was less frivolous than you thought, and maybe you can see a logic. Big, 'do everything' operating systems are all very well in Microsoft's current core markets, but this is not a stupid company, and it must surely understand the need for leaner, meaner systems - the sort of stuff that could really monitor and control industrial systems (or aircraft carrier weapons systems, or motor cars).
The notion adds some resonance to the other, not terribly obviously exciting, aspects of today's announcements. we have XML support for CE 3.0, along with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) 5.0 support and Internet connection sharing. These, as Microsoft sensibly points out, constitute the "first step toward enabling a platform for embedded devices in the Microsoft .NET framework."
So go figure that. You've got a lean, mean (it might not turn out like that, but hey, it's an objective) componentised OS that can handle XML, run apps remotely via Win2k Terminal Server and that allows multiple devices in a semi-ad hoc home network to share a single Internet connection. This is not dull stuff, it is aimed at the consumer market, and it's not Whistler, not Blackcomb. But although both of these have been tagged, confusingly, as the "first" .NET-enabled OS, we suspect that the real first may come out of embedded. ®