Well, hell has frozen over for the Wintel franchise because with Windows 10 IoT Core, Microsoft (MSFT)has publicly released a version of the iconic Windows software that runs on an ARM processor that isn’t designed for a smartphone. Nope, this software, first announced in February and publicly released on Monday, is designed to run on Raspberry Pi 2 boards and Arduinos, the low-power computers that hobbyists use to build and prototype connected devices. (Raspberry Pi is a $35, Linux-based computer created and built by a nonprofit foundation to help get people interested in building computers.)
The goal is to make sure Microsoft software makes it into the growing community of companies and people building for the Internet of things. Success will keep the software giant relevant, allowing it to learn from its past failure to cultivate a developer base in mobile, which led to another failure to win in the market for consumer apps.
And while some people may take the newly released, slimmed down version of Windows 10 to mean you can build a $35 Windows PC using the Windows 10 IoT Core OS and Raspberry Pi computers, that’s not exactly true. The Windows 10 IoT Core operating system is about building applications for embedded devices such as connected appliances, toys or anything you might think up using the Windows ecosystem.
This is Microsoft’s effort to offer a unified code base across all of types of computers for developers so they can build for everything from the relatively dumb edge devices like refrigerators all the way back to the Windows Server or Microsoft Azure cloud, where the data from that fridge is stored. It’s also a concession that the maker and hobbyist community is building relevant and unique products that Microsoft wants to be a part of from the get go.
This isn’t just engineers or students playing around in their basements. These are entrepreneurs, students and even professionals at design firms and inside labs at large companies prototyping projects that might turn into the next big idea. Just as Apple (AAPL) used to bet on the education market to get its products in the hands of the next generation of computer users, every chip and cloud company is building a product aimed at makers to influence their purchasing decisions in case their ideas make it big. This is a smart idea given that Gartner predicts that half of the products built from the Internet of things will be built by startups.
So far the forums set up to handle the Windows 10 IoT questions aren’t exactly hopping, and I haven’t met a lot of developers who aren’t content to use Linux, Raspbian or other options. But there are new people willing to pick up Raspbery Pis and Arduinos every day, and adding an operating system they are more familiar with might make them more inclined to jump into making a connected prototype. What will be more interesting is when ARM (ARMH) publicly releases its version of its ARM mbed OS for the Internet of things, expected later this month.
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