April 17, 2008 9:23 AM PDT

Microsoft woos hobbyist developers

Microsoft woos hobbyist developers
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Who's afraid of embedded Linux? Microsoft

April 15, 2008
Microsoft is trying to foster more interest in embedded software, encouraging amateur developers to experiment with programmable components in devices from toasters to televisions.

The "Spark Your Imagination" developer program for hobbyists and academics was announced at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday. In a joint agreement between Microsoft and hardware makers, the company said it is trying to boost interest in noncommercial software development around Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 and Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition.

News of Microsoft's focus on individual hobbyists and academic teams in this area of technology comes after reports over the last couple of years suggesting that embedded software development typically occurs in small, close-knit teams. The company said it is now focused on fueling the future talent pool for this segment of software development.

"We are aiming to remove the barriers that hobbyists and academics have faced in the past, by allowing them access to the best software and hardware that can be developed together into smart, connected, service-oriented devices, such as home-control systems that collect and share data between sensors, home appliances, and media or communication devices," Frank Prengel, a Microsoft Windows Embedded developer evangelist, told CNET News.com sister site ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

Under the banner of its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Academic Alliance, Microsoft already provides some software for students in the embedded technology and design fields. Through the new program, additional offerings will include a full version of Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 and Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition, along with selected boards from participating hardware vendors, at a discounted price.

As part of this announcement, Microsoft said it now offers Board Support Package (BSP) certification free of charge. This qualification guarantees compatibility with the Microsoft's designated Windows Embedded CE operating system requirements.

The initial list of hardware vendors participating in the program includes Advantech, ICOP Digital, Keith & Koep, Via Technologies, and Special Computing. The program offerings have an estimated retail value of $1,300 and are available immediately worldwide at prices ranging from $250 to $350.

Adrian Bridgwater of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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software development, hardware maker, Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, hobbyist, Microsoft Visual Studio


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Why Windows?
Having done work with a myriad of small platform OSes. WinCE
(of any flavor) would be low on my list of candidates.

Linux would be my top choice. While it does require a small
amount of expertise to get past the compilation hurdle - the
speed at which one moves after this is worth this upfront cost.

WinCE starts fast and then is nothing but frustration.

Plus - the WinCE platform is a dead-end. MS must come up with
an OS that scales from the server rack to the handheld (like
Linux, Mac OS X) to compete. I doubt very much that WinCE will
survive that transition.
Posted by BillFromPittsburgh (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Have some basic understanding of the subject matter before posting
BillFromPitts said, "MS must come up with
an OS that scales from the server rack to the handheld ..."

MS already has an OS like that...it's called Windows Embedded. Any person who has worked with a myriad of small platforms knows this. It's a shame when people like our funny friend Bill from Pittsbrugh comment on these news.com stories when they clearly have no working knowlege of the subject matter.

Or this gem, "WinCE starts fast and then is nothing but frustration."

How would you know Bill, it's obvious you're no developer of any kind.
Posted by Maxwell Studly (97 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Preach on, brother. I'm a UNIX/C purist, but I dabbled in library development, professionally, for Windows Mobile 5, and I gotta say that Microsoft does have their sh*t together. I have yet to see a viable, easy-to-use embedded Linux platform or IDE.
Posted by EvanMcClure (2 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft's real problem
The real problem Microsoft is going to have with enticing hobbyist developers is that Microsoft's notion of what an operating system is, is fundamentally flawed. Operating systems aren't just any baby piece of software that a group of developers can get into a room and sketch out on a white-board, which is how MS thinks an OS is built. If you study computer science you know that there is such a thing as "Principles of Operating Systems", in other words there is a well established theory behind how you build an operating system for existing computer architecture (which may change in the future). Microsoft for the most part ignores these principles or at the very least is guilty of being very liberal with its adherence to them, that is a recipe for faulty Operating Systems. There is even a standard for building Operating Systems, in other words not just abstract principles but very concrete steps required to build solid operating systems, it is call POSIX. Needless to say MS doesn't follow that. It is one thing for a developer to use Microsoft technology when they are paid to do so, it quite another for me as a hobbyist to devote my free time in learning technology whose skill sets aren't portable to other platforms. I know how to write Linux software, I can easily move that skill to Mac, while I know how to write windows software, none of my windows skills are applicable to other operating systems, not even the forward-slash versus back-lash is portable. I think this is why Microsoft has trouble attracting hobbyist talent, nobody has time for acquiring restrictive skills for which they aren't being paid. The same holds for web standards.
Posted by db2not (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't compete
Hobbyist programmers will program in Open Source on platforms like Android.

Windows is not open and it only really benefits Microsoft. In other words they want hobbyists to work for Microsoft for free.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What, and get sued?
I mean, the last .NET hobbyist of any real note to have tinkered with MSFT software got a C&D sent to him from Redmond for his efforts.

Screw that - I'd like to be free to develop whatever apps I see fit to build, thanks.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What was that and why?
I have not heard about this. Can you fill us in on the details?
Posted by paulej (1261 comments )
Link Flag
More FUD from Peng
The guy you site provided (hacked) add-ins for the express (free) editions of Visual Studio - a no, no... Why pay for the full edition of software if people are willing to hack the free versions to do the same thing as the paid-for versions? Microsoft's only mistake was not to call him on it initially. No doubt he makes a great add-in but add-ins are not supposed to be created for the Express editions. Oh that's right, Peng everything should be free...

The other case someone else sited was a simple trademark case. If Apple can sue NY State over it's use of an Apple in a logo so can Microsoft. Get over it.

If you read the article you'd find that they are talking about people writing apps that are unrelated to Microsoft's software. What you suggest is that people will get sued for using .NET or XP Embedded to build anything.
Posted by kojacked (1129 comments )
Link Flag
Then they take your creation and tell you.

Windows after all was first created by Xerox way back when.......
Posted by JCPayne (820 comments )
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