Microsoft Pi

Is a BSOD without a sceen still a crash?
Is a BSOD without a sceen still a crash?

I’ve been thinking about this for the last day or so. Is having Windows on an embedded board something the world needs?

We’re excited to announce that we are expanding our Windows Developer Program for IoT by delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2. This release of Windows 10 will be free for the Maker community through the Windows Developer Program for IoT.

The announcement doesn’t have much in the way of specifics. It’s more of a landing page, with the focus being on signing up for the program, and getting “more details about our Windows 10 plans for IoT in the coming months.”

The announcement is geared towards the “Maker community”1. I have to wonder if this is a push for inroads into the larger companies who already have a substantial around of Windows developers on staff.

Partnering with Raspberry Pi is quick way to gain goodwill and trust. Everybody loves the Pi. The boards were feel-good story from the beginning. The creators noticed that children were learning apps2 and not computing. They wanted something that would encourage experimentation. They didn’t find anything commercially available. So they set out to make their own.

…a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment.

The last two words of that quote are the reason the Raspberry Pi exists. Programming environment. It is related to the Arduino. They are both small inexpensive boards for learning electronics and programming. They both have I/O pins that can be connected to larger world.

The difference is in the intended audience. The Arduino is for hardware hackers. It adds a BASIC-like3 command language to a traditional microcontroller4 platform. The Pi is a fully-operational general purpose computer.

A computer that runs Linux.

The creators needed an operating system which was freely available. Linux fit the bill. It let the creators work on the hardware. The open-source community that formed around the PI took care of the software.

The Microsoft announcement comes with the release of the second version of the Pi — Pi 2. It’s updated with a new CPU and more RAM. The original CPU architecture (ARMv6) wasn’t powerful enough to run a graphical OS5. The Pi 2 with a ARM Cortex-M7 can.

And this is where Microsoft comes in. The last group of low-priced computers running Linux were the netbooks. Microsoft took notice when netbooks began to sell in quantity. Sales of Windows XP Home Edition ended in 2008. But Microsoft brought XP back just for netbooks. This prevented non-Windows OSs from gaining a foothold.

Now Microsoft wants a piece of the Pi.6

  1. Capitalization in original.
  2. This was 10+ years ago. The apps they were concerned with were Word and Excel.
  3. Plain AVR C works too.
  4. Specifically in that it doesn’t run user-interactive programs.
  5. Like Windows or MacOS. A window manager like MATE or OpenBox is not a full OS.
  6. Yeah. I said it.