A couple of years ago, my colleagues and I at WindowsForDevices.com were engaged in an extensive site redesign intended to help retain the longtime sponsorship provided by Microsoft’s Windows Embedded group. We didn’t get their support, and a few months later, WFD (and its sister sites LinuxDevices.com and DesktopLinux.com, all of which exist now only in a state of suspended animation) was closed down.
I state this not because I’m holding any sort of grudge against Redmond, but rather to explain why, frankly, I haven’t been paying much attention to Windows Embedded products lately. However, I was recently reading the April 2013 issue of RTC magazine and came across an article on Windows Embedded 8 by experienced authors John Malin and Sean Liming that really knocked me for a loop.
If you’re interested in Windows Embedded, you should read the whole article. But I’m taking the liberty of quoting the two paragraphs that stunned me:
All of the new features in WE8S make it a much better embedded solution than Windows Embedded Standard 7 (WES 7), but there is one very serious drawback: activation is required. This means that every image that you ship must connect to the Internet and register with Microsoft. Even if networking is not used in your product, the image must be activated. For embedded systems, activation is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. The real concern is what happens during the lifecycle of the product. Embedded systems have long lives.
With all the updates, there have been instances when Windows can get deactivated, like when there is a major hardware change. Failure to reactivate within a given time period results in a screen overlay dialog that reminds the user that activation is required. It doesn’t change the performance of the system. To some customers, this dialog might be a flag that there is a defect in the product and also an indication that Windows is in the system, when the OEM tried really hard to hide the fact that Windows is there. When a system is activated a unique signature is sent to the system. Since activation has to happen on each system, any systems that require a CRC check like gaming and some medical devices will not be able to use WE8S.
This is insane. What real or imagined piracy problem could possibly have justified this? And who would ever want to create an embedded device that could “break” in this manner?