Windows XP Embedded, Part I

What is Windows XP Embedded? Well, I oversee technical training for several thousand software engineers working at Microsoft. Part of my responsibilities include continuously monitoring what Microsoft hiring managers are looking for so that I can create training classes which target those sought-after technologies and increase Volt engineers’ career options. Recently, I noticed a big spike in the number of job openings which are asking for candidates with basic familiarity with Windows XP Embedded. Even though I’ve worked with software since the 1960s, I wasn’t 100% sure I even knew exactly what Windows XP Embedded is. So I found out. The best way to think of Windows XP Embedded is as a customized, slimmed-down version of regular Windows XP. So, what’s the point of XP Embedded?  A full-blown PC needs an operating system with thousands and thousands of hardware device drivers so that the PC/operating system can accommodate a huge range of possible hardware devices — keyboards, hard disk drives, USB devices, and so on. You can argue strongly that the plug-and-play hardware support of Windows XP, is as much responsible for the success of Windows and even Microsoft, as anything. But what if you are building a "PC-like" device instead of a full PC? Examples include information-kiosk devices, game console devices, home server appliances (to set up a home network), and so on. In these cases you don’t need or even want the full Windows XP operating system. Here’s where Windows XP Embedded comes in. Software developers can download a set of four related tools (named Target Analyzer Probe, Component Designer, Component Database Manager, and Target Designer) which allow developers to build a custom version of Windows XP that has only the drivers and other software the PC-like device needs. Very cool idea. As opposed to using a proprietary operating system, XP Embedded allows developers to use their existing knowledge of Microsoft software development (no need to learn a whole new OS and development tools), and XP Embedded has a big support community. Let me point out that Windows XP Embedded is not at all the same as the Windows CE operating system, which is intended for so-called "mobile devices" such as PDAs and cell phones, which are not very "PC-like". So anyway, I saw this interest in Windows XP Embedded from hiring managers and created an intense 2-hour "Introduction to Windows XP Embedded" class which has been enthusiastically received by Volt and Microsoft engineers. See for Volt technical training class information.
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