Discovering Windows Embedded Standard 2011 – What is different to WES 2009? – Part 1

16 01 2010

With this post I am starting a new series looking at the CTP 2 of Microsoft’s newest embedded operating. As you already may know with WES 2011 the base OS platform is no longer XP Professional, as it was for quite a few years now. Instead 2011 starts a new age leveraging the Windows 7 technologies.
The first thing one will notice is that WES 2011 is completely different to its predecessors. There is a huge shift in the OS development paradigm towards the standard maintenance and configuration features of Windows 7. Due to this we have to say god bye to the component database, Target Designer, Component Designer and Component Database Manager. The new tools are called Image Builder Wizard (IBW) and Image Configuration Editor (ICE), cool name, isn’t it? What has been regarded as components are now driver, feature and language packs. With IBW one has the opportunity to configure an OS image on the target device directly using a bootable DVD or USB drive with the help of templates, which are in fact Win 7 unattended setup configurations (unattend.xml). These configurations are applied by the IBW setup engine to the device.
In contrast to Windows 7, WES 2011 offers still the extended embedded functionality such as EWF, FBWF, etc. one has gotten used to using earlier versions of XP embedded and WES.
Due to the new approach there re a lot of great new things and functionality to discover, but there are also some drawbacks that need to be paid. Here is my first glance list on these, which does not claim to be complete. Find a feature list of Windows Embedded Standard 2011 at the Microsoft site.

Benefits:

  • Access to all new Windows 7 functionality –This is a killer feature!!!
  • Nearly all old EEFs are available, some even improved –good job Embedded team
  • New images are HAL independent – Halleluja! 🙂
  • 32 Bit and 64 Bit OS images possible – long awaited by customers doing photo and video editing. Processor specific images need to be maintained.
  • Access to the new Win7 deployment and maintenance tools (Imagex, Dism, WinPE, WDS, etc.) for offline and online servicing – Very nice!
  • Automatic Device Servicing (Windows Update) – Be careful using it together with EWF and FBWF!

Drawbacks:

  • Images are bigger – smallest is about 300 MB compared to 40 MB on WES 2009. This is not so critical in my eyes. Storage nowadays is cheap.
  • Componentization not as granular – Can be a problem for some really targeted devices.
  • Windows Welcome process (This was formerly called OOBE and is popping up during first boot of devices. It might be good or bad depending on requirements.)
  • Activation will be required. System locked pre-installation is possible, but this means additional work to an OEM. Could be a showstopper for some projects.

Overall it has become easier to get your first WES up and running, But, if one digs in deeper there are some challenges understanding different settings for configuration paths’ as well the new distribution of Windows features in the feature packs. There is no free lunch, but you get used to while creating the first images.

In the coming weeks I am going to post some short articles about my current experience with the new tools features and technologies. Therefore stay tuned!

Alexander

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