Yesterday, Microsoft released the first Community Technology Preview release of Windows Embedded Standard 2011, freely downloadable to play with. This is the first Windows Embedded release based on Windows 7, and therefore brings a whole number of Windows 7 technologies to the embedded Windows world. The final release is expected somewhere during the second half of 2010.
Originally, the next Windows Embedded release would be based on Windows Vista, but due to the rather lacklustre public response to this operating system, Microsoft abandoned that idea in favour of a Windows 7-based release – us technical folk know that Windows 7 is an improved Vista anyway.
So, what does this new release bring to the table? It comes with 64bit support, the Aero user interface, support for Windows Touch, and Windows Presentation Foundation. It also includes the latest versions of several regular Windows applications and frameworks, like Windows Media Player 12, Internet Explorer 8, Remote Desktop Protocol 7.0, and .NET Framework 3.5. On top of that, it has full support for Active Directory group policies, and also comes with new power management features which should lead to better battery life.
Note that Windows Embedded is not Windows Mobile; Windows Embedded is a componentised version of Windows-regular, tailor-made for embedded scenarios. OEMs can cherry pick those drivers, services, or parts of Windows needed for their specific devices.
You can download it from Microsoft Connect.