There’s a small technology event called Computex running this week in Taipei, one of the super interesting announcements to come out at the event is the immediate availability of Windows Embedded Compact 7 Community Technology Preview (which means you can download a pre-release version of the product and start building operating system images).
Check out the Microsoft News Center article called “Creating Rich Experiences on Specialized Devices”.
At Computex Asus previewed the Eee Pad EP101TC 10 based on CE7 (see photo below, here’s a link to the Engadget article)
More information (and demos) about the CE7 product will be made available during the Microsoft keynote on Wednesday – look out for updates on the Windows Embedded Twitter feed (@msftweb).
Let’s take a couple of seconds to discuss why CE7 is such an interesting release (I will focus only on the obvious part you can see from the image above). Historically, user interfaces for devices were created by developers (perhaps there was a designer lurking in the background who created a set of images or a movie to explain the interface, the developer was responsible for translating the paper images to running code). Developers are (mostly) good at, well, coding. Designers are good at designing (can you see where this is going?). One of the core technologies in the CE7 release is Silverlight for Windows Embedded – this is a Silverlight based rendering engine that supports hardware acceleration and sits directly on top of the underlying Win32 API set (there’s no .NET in Silverlight for Windows Embedded).
With CE7 a designer can use her favorite design tools (Expression Blend) to create a <marketing_speak>rich, immersive</marketing_speak> “cool looking” user experience that includes animations, alpha-blending, timelines etc… the developer then “imports” the design into their CE7 developer environment (note that you can be an O/S designer using Platform Builder or an ISV developer using Visual Studio) and “codes behind” the designer experience. This is very similar to the MFC experience where someone (typically the developer, but bear with me…) creates a user experience using CDialog or CFormView and then “codes behind” the controls to create the final application – MFC tools made the process simple, allowing a developer to see a list of potential Windows Messages or MFC Virtual Functions and automatically create the stub-code behind the events. With Silverlight for Windows Embedded the same concept exists – a designer creates the user interface for a device (see below) and hands the “.xap” file to a developer – the developer imports the xap using Silverlight for Windows Embedded Tools (there was an internal name for this, let me know if you want the background on the internal name…) – the developer can then see a list of possible events from the imported designer generated xap file and have these events automatically hooked up to stub code (like MFC… //TODO: insert your code here).
You have complete flexibility in the design of your device user experience.
Go check out the Windows Embedded Compact 7 web page to get more information (including videos that explain some of the new features) and download the Tech Preview.