Basic features of the .NET Micro Framework

30 05 2006
The .NET Micro Framework i s a new plattform that really has the potential to change our lives. You may ask why, how can this be? Well, this framework has got all one needs to create a real ubiqous computing experience. It is small, flexible, highly portable and is ideally suited to create simple "connected devices" that are able to communicate easily with the larger brothers out of the Microsoft platform construction kit. 
This  not only closes the gap on the lower end from a Microsoft platform perspective, but also provides the communication mechanisms to connect the smaller devices into higly functional application end-to-end scenarios.
So, here is what You need to build a new device class with the .NET Micro Framework (yes, a bit simplyfied) :
  • A 32-bit processor plattform leveraging an ARM7 or ARM9 core (no MMU required)
  • Connectivity via USB/serial line, Ethernet, 802.11 or Bluetooth
  • Display capabilities (if required for your  device) either textual or graphical

 The Micro Framework then can be run on this platform offering the following main features:

  • Interpreted code execution (saves overhead and memory)
  • .NET runtime capabilities like garbage collection, reflection, seralization, type system and interop
  • Cooperative multitasking handled by the runtime
  • Rich UI capabilities based on the Vista Windows Presentation foundation (Avalon)
  • Security and encription

This is astoningly rich infrastructure on such small devices!
But do not expect that every functionality can be there. There of course are trade offs that were needed to be made to meet restrictions regarding the resources in this device class. Finally 70 classes out of the 1450 classes, that exist in the .NET framework on dektop, will be available in the Micro Framework. The majority of them is part of the System and XML namespaces of the framework.

But where can we find 32-bit ARM processors to leverage the Micro Framework? Aren’t they just just the core of quite pricy PPC’s or smartphones running Windows Mobile?
Well, not any more. Did You know that the newest generation of smart cards are leveraging 32-bit ARM processors as their processing core? And there are quite few more designs to come that will provide 32-bit processing power for a reasonable price, ready to target the mass market. I’ll keep You posted!

 

Alexander 

 


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