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Microsoft, NXP unveil Arm-based Windows 10 IoT Enterprise experience
Cramming a full Windows desktop into a teeny tiny space
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is very much the full-fat version of Windows 10, including full application compatibility and developer access to .NET tools, WinForms, WPF, UWP, and WinUI.
It differs from Windows 10 IoT Core, which is aimed at even smaller devices and supports just UWP in terms of app architecture.
In addition, the IoT Core shell can only show one UWP app in the foreground at a time while IoT Enterprise features the familiar Windows Shell that users know and love.
The Public Preview is the result of a multi-year collaboration between Microsoft and Dutch chipmaker NXP Semiconductor that kicked off with IoT Core on the i.MX 6 and i.MX 7. The i.MX 8M is a relatively powerful beast, with a SoC based on Arm Cortex-A53 and Cortex-M4 cores, replete with 4K video and support on NXP's 10 and 15-year Longevity Program.
Of particular interest to users seeking to build something interactive is support for DirectX 11 via drivers for the GC7000Lite GPU. Sure, it won't set the hearts of gamers racing, but will make for slicker Windows UI experience on a lightweight IoT device.
Is this too little, too late for Windows on IoT?
A version of IoT Core was emitted for Raspberry Pi devices some years ago. While support was given to what are now older devices, such as the Raspberry Pi 3, more up-to-date kit (in this case, the Pi 3 Model B+) has languished in Preview. Despite the considerably more capable Raspberry Pi 4 hardware being available (and capable of running the Arm version of Windows 11), Windows 10 IoT Core for Pi has not seen a tremendous amount of love from Microsoft since.
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As for today's IoT Enterprise public preview, support is currently limited to the i.MX 8MQ SoC, although Microsoft has promised that other i.MX 8M SoC "will be added later this year."
Arm support will make Windows 10 IoT Enterprise an intriguing option for vendors after something that looks and feels like Windows (along with all the management tools beloved by administrators) while still being relatively low-power and low-cost.
However, it will also carry with it the compatibility issues that have bothered its bigger desktop brother, despite the Windows desktop lipstick. ®