This post provides a brief history of Windows Embedded and how it evolved into Windows IoT 10 Enterprise. We will provide you with the answer to what is Windows 10 IoT as well as the benefits that Windows 10 IoT Enterprise provides for IoT device scalability and infrastructure.
But First, What is Windows Embedded?
Windows embedded is an operating system that Microsoft created for embedded devices. Windows embedded is highly customizable, allowing organizations to add their own themes and tools using the windows operating system. The source code for windows embedded can be customized and tailored according to an organization’s specific requirements.
Windows embedded is used in a variety of industrial computers and smart devices, such as interactive kiosk machines, factory automation equipment, POS systems, ATMs, self-service checkouts, and many more devices. A key feature for Windows 10 IoT versions is its ability for better manageability and security for IoT devices on an enterprise deployment level.
For a moment, it seemed like Microsoft did not have a plan for the future of windows embedded until the launch of Windows IoT Enterprise, which Microsoft began marketing as a replacement for Microsoft Windows Embedded.
Many system integrators focused in embedded computing utilized Windows Embedded because of its customizability, allowing them to select the features they wanted to install or not to install on the system. For example, if you were installing Windows Embedded on an interactive kiosk machine, many operating system features are not needed and may take up precious storage space. By only installing the features that are required or that benefit the IoT applications, system builders can reduce the potential attack surface, making their systems more secure and reliable in the real-world deployment
Additionally, Windows Embedded was so customizable that system builders could change the splash screen and branding throughout the system to make a fully customized OS attributable to their clients’ businesses.
The two most recent versions of Windows Embedded were Windows Embedded 7 Standard and Windows Embedded 8 Standard, commonly known as WES7 and WES8. WES7 was a stripped-down version of Microsoft Windows 7 with the capability for customization. Also, any software that was capable of running on Windows 7 was able to operate on Windows 7 Embedded.
WES7 came in three different flavors known as E, C, and P, with each different version coming with different features. WES8 embedded was only released as a single version WES8, so if you had purchased a version of it, you were able to take advantage of all of the features it had to offer. That said, you were still able to customize it to include only the features that you needed to use.
Windows 7 vs. Windows 7 Embedded
Windows Embedded 7 is different from Windows 7 because it gave users the ability to fully customize the OS by adding applications they needed and discarding any of the components, drivers, and applications they did not need. By removing all of the features and applications that weren’t needed, system builders could reduce the size of the OS image, making more room for the applications and functionality that users required.
That said, Microsoft switched up the naming scheme and began calling it Windows 10 IoT in 2015. Windows IoT completely replaced Windows Embedded. Microsoft released three versions of Windows 10 IoT, and these were Windows IoT Core, Windows IoT Mobile Enterprise, and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. The version of windows that is most often used for industrial computers is the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise Edition, so it will be the focus of this post.
What is Windows 10 IoT Enterprise?
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is a version of the Windows 10 family that brings industrial-grade power, security, and management to the internet of things from the OS layer. Windows IoT Enterprise builds upon the experience, connectivity, and ecosystem offered by Windows Embedded, allowing organizations to connect and manage IoT devices quickly and seamlessly. Simply put, Windows IoT Enterprise is the successor to Windows Embedded.
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise vs. Windows Embedded
Like Windows Embedded, Microsoft Windows IoT Enterprise was developed for use in embedded computing systems, targeting all sorts of embedded computing solutions, such as kiosk machines and POS devices. Many current IoT applications and their software code run in a windows environment on the backend. Although the end-users may not experience a traditional windows experience, IoT system builders need to ensure smooth software integrations without any bugs or even system downtime. Due to the sensitivity of IoT devices and their unique applications, Microsoft created a locked-down version of Windows 10 IoT to prevent automatic patches and updates directly in the field. This is currently known as the Long term service channel (LTSC) versions of Windows 10 IoT that offers full control and flexibility for updates. This embedded version of Windows is key to helping IoT builders master 24/7 operation and streamline automation control for devices.
Windows 10 IoT LTSB vs. LTSC, is there a difference?
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise was first offered as an LTSB (Long Term Servicing Branch), but the latest version of Microsoft 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 is offered as LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel). The LTSC offered some new features that were not included on the LTSB version, such as state of the art security features, a new Windows subsystem for Linux, Net Framework 4.7 Support, and Bluetooth Quick pairing, allowing systems running Windows IoT to quickly connect to nearby Bluetooth devices.
The LTSB version included only features that had been extensively tested, making systems more reliable and less likely to crash or freeze due to updates. That said, the LTSB version still received security updates and hotfixes, but the operating system remained untouched for long periods of time. Starting in 2019, Microsoft released the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC version, which continues in the path of the LTSB version with a few new features that we mentioned earlier.
Microsoft understands that industrial PC users do not want to frequently update their systems because updates can often cause systems and/or applications to crash, leading to detrimental downtime. As such, Microsoft first released the LTSB version and subsequently released the LTSC version currently available in the Windows IoT Enterprise model breakdown.
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise vs. Windows 10 Pro
After purchasing an industrial computer, OEMs need to install an OS for their system. So, if you’re trying to find the ideal OS, check out some of the differences between Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise to find the OS that’s suitable for your workload.
Windows IoT Enterprise comes equipped with Windows Defender, which provides users with the ability to lock down controls and features on industrial computers. It also has a Kiosk mode feature that allows specific applications to lockdown your hardware system, providing the business or organization deploying a kiosk with enhanced security measures.
Furthermore, with Windows 10 Professional, there are forced features updates that cannot be avoided, which is beneficial for personal computers for home use, but not for industrial deployments that require locked-down control. However, Windows 10 IoT enterprise gives enterprise users full control over which features and updates they want to install. Additionally, if support ends for the build you have with Windows 10 Pro, you will be forced to update to the new build, which’s not required with Windows 10 IoT.
- App Locker, Layout Control, Shell Launcher, and App Launcher
Windows IoT App Locker allows organizations to control which applications and files a user can run or access. Files and applications include executable files, scripts, DLLs (dynamic-link libraries), Windows installer files, and packaged app installers.
The Layout Control feature permits organizations to customize the start menu and taskbar layout, as well as configure the Start Menu UI elements. Additionally, Layout Control allows organizations to prevent changes to applications, ensuring that the interface always appears the same.
Shell Launcher can be used to replace the default Windows 10 shell with a custom shell that includes using a custom dedicated application as a shell, allowing OEMs to create a custom experience for users where the Windows interface is hidden, allowing customers to focus on an organization’s application.
- Controlled Boot
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise offers a number of features, such as UEFI Secure Boot, Bitlocker Device Encryption, and Device Guard, offering devices protection from common attacks. For example, Windows UEFI Secure Boot ensures that industrial computers boot using only software that is trusted by the OEM. Secure Boot works by checking every boot software signature to ensure that it is valid. If the signature is valid, the system will boot up, and the firmware will give control of the system to the OS.
- Unified Write Filter (UWF)
UWF is an important feature of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise because it protects a system’s drives by intercepting and redirecting any writes to application installations, settings, and saved data to a virtual overlay. The virtual overlay acts as a temporary location that is typically cleared whenever a computer is rebooted or when a user logs off. This feature is excellent for industrial computers used by many users because it allows them to install applications and make changes to files; once they log out of the computer system, the system is cleared of all changes for the next user.
- USB, Keyboard, Gesture, and Dialogue Box Filter
USB and Keyboard Filter allows organizations to only allow trusted USB devices to be connected to industrial computing systems. USB Filter intercepts the device that’s connected to a system, only allowing USB devices with matching IDs to be detectable and activated.
Gesture Filters allow organizations to clock certain gestures from their systems. For example, an organization can block swipes from the top, bottom, left, and right of screens, thus prohibiting end-users from closing or switching between applications.
Dialogue & Notification Filter allows organizations to hide system dialogs from appearing and control which processes can run on a computer.
Overall, Windows 10 IoT permits the user to fully customize their hardware interface and system operation according to an organization’s specific requirements, something that cannot be done with Microsoft Windows 10 Professional. As such, our customers will be most interested in configuring their system using either Microsoft Windows Embedded or Microsoft Windows IoT Enterprise LTSC.
2. Customization & Updates
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is the most suitable operating system for handling industrial workloads because it’s easily customizable, secure, and fully supported. Licensing Windows 10 IoT is super simple, and it allows you to remove many of the features that are tailored towards commercial users.
Additionally, Windows IoT allows you to remove many of the gestures and UI features that cannot be disabled in Windows 10 Pro. Furthermore, Windows IoT allows developers to configure the system with the features they require, as well as custom boot screens so that only their clients’ branding is shown with no reference to Windows or Microsoft.
The second important benefit of using Windows 10 IoT is that it provides you with the ability to lock down the system to prohibit other persons from tampering with the system. Additionally, it allows you to fully encrypt the disk, block distracting dialogue boxes, and only accept whitelisted USB peripherals to be accessed by the system. This allows industrial computers to be deployed in remote unmonitored areas without the operator having to worry about someone tampering with the system or trying to insert malicious programs onto the computer via USB.
4. 10 Years of Updates
The third advantage of using Microsoft Windows IoT 10 Enterprise is that it comes with 10 years of windows OS support via the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC), as well as a 10 to 15-year life cycle. This is very different from Windows 10 Pro, which has a life cycle of two to three years and a support cycle of 18 to 30 months. So, for long-term support, you should definitely configure a system with Windows IoT instead of the regular Windows 10 Pro OS.
Additionally, devices that are using the LTSC version of Windows 10 IoT will only receive security updates while minimizing the changes and updates to the base operating system. Those deploying industrial PCs want as few updates to the OS as possible to avoid Applications or the OS crashing. Also, Microsoft tends to release new LTSC versions every two to three years, and every release is supported for 10 years, which is ideal for industrial use cases since they do not require frequent feature updates as do commercial users.
Furthermore, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC 2019 is ideal for OEMs because it offers them the ability to lock the OS into a build while still receiving 10 years of support. Additionally, OEMs do not have to worry about new features or updates to the OS being forcefully updated; only security patches are applied to secure the system further.
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise vs. Windows 10 IoT Core
Windows 10 IoT core was made by Microsoft for use in IoT networks with small, low-powered devices. It contains all of the major components of Windows 10 while having very low system requirements. That said, its functionality is significantly limited when compared to Windows 10 IoT Enterprise as it is not built for high-performance systems.
On the other hand, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise is similar to a full-fledged version of Windows while having extremely powerful features that allow OEMs to lock down the system and customize it according to their specific requirements. IoT Enterprise is commonly used in items, such as interactive kiosk machines, ATM (Automated Teller Machines), industrial automation, retail automation, and many other applications.
What Devices Can Windows 10 IoT Enterprise Be Used For?
Windows 10 IoT Enterprise can be used in a variety of devices that include kiosk machines, retail points of sale, smart gateways, autonomous vehicles, robotics, factory automation, and a variety of other devices. OEMs using Windows IoT Enterprise are able to fully customize their IoT enterprise image according to their specific requirements. Microsoft even offers a full guide on how to customize the system in the documentation included with Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. Additionally, Microsoft recently announced support for the Robot Operating System (ROS) for Windows 10 IoT enterprise that enables industrial and retail automation, providing ready to use capabilities that make ROS development easier.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is Windows Embedded?
Windows embedded is an operating system that Microsoft created for embedded computing solutions. Windows embedded builds upon the Windows operating system that’s used on personal computers. Windows embedded is usually installed on industrial computers that power things, such as kiosk machines, ATMs, cash registers, and self-checkout machines.
2. What is Windows IoT Enterprise?
Windows 10 IoT is the successor to Windows Embedded; like Windows Embedded, Windows IoT is designed for embedded computing devices that power many of the machines and smart devices around us. One of the great benefits of Windows IoT is the industrial-grade, long-term support that Microsoft offers for this OS.
3. When was Windows Embedded First Released?
Windows Embedded was previously known as Windows Embedded CE or Windows CE; it was first released in November of 1996 (more than 24 years ago).
4. When Was Windows IoT First Released?
Windows IoT Enterprise was first released in July of 2015 as Windows IoT Enterprise LTSB.