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Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Microsoft and Intel team up for Sharks Cove SBC

Intel's Sharks Cove board, teased in this low-resolution preview, has been developed to Microsoft's exacting specifications, allowing developers a standardised platform for writing Windows drivers for SoC hardware.

Microsoft has pledged to help support Windows developers with an officially-certified line of development boards, starting later this year with Intel's Sharks Cove platform.

Not to be confused with Intel's open hardware projects Galileo and MinnowBoard, the latter in cooperation with BeagleBoard and BeagleBone creator CircuitCo, the new development boards are built to Microsoft's specifications to create an off-the-shelf development environment for creating Windows software optimised for system-on-chip (SoC) platforms.

'Hardware engineers have traditionally faced challenges in creating Windows drivers for SoC platforms,' admitted Microsoft in a statement regarding the upcoming programme. 'Unlike PCs, which have PCI slots and USB ports, SoC systems like tablets and clamshells use low-power internal buses that lack standard connectors, Plug and Play support, and discovery mechanisms. Often these devices are protected by secure boot and cannot be used to develop or test third-party drivers. That will soon change. Hardware engineers will be able to buy off-the-shelf boards that are designed to work with specific SoC environments.'

Intel's Sharks Cove will be one of the first, the company confirmed. A single-board computer (SoC) design, the Sharks Cove board breaks out all the functionality of Intel's Atom system-on-chip (SoC) platform; even portions which are rarely used, such as general-purpose input-output (GPIO) connectivity, will be readily accessible using expansion connectors. The aim, Microsoft claimed, is to make the development of Windows drivers for SoCs as easy as possible.

Sharks Cove won't be the last board, either: Microsoft has promised that several boards will be available later this year, with a number of ARM-based boards - for Windows RT development - likely to launch alongside Intel's offering. Pricing has not been confirmed, but these are not Raspberry Pi competitors; with a professional feature set and formal Microsoft certification, these engineering boards will be priced for corporate purchases only.

Intel has not yet confirmed the specifications of Sharks Cove, with more information expected later this year ahead of a planned 2H 2014 launch.

3 Comments

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schmidtbag 7th April 2014, 17:06 Quote
Once again, both intel and MS are way too caught up in their existing products. There's a reason ARM is used for mobile platforms and there's a reason Windows isn't used, yet both companies are so insistent that their ideas are the right ones. I like their motives for this project, but I find them to be very unrealistic. Intel can't make a system with a proper balance between physical size, power consumption, heat, price, and performance. MS just seems incapable of creating a lean OS.
edzieba 8th April 2014, 10:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by schmidtbag
Once again, both intel and MS are way too caught up in their existing products. There's a reason ARM is used for mobile platforms and there's a reason Windows isn't used, yet both companies are so insistent that their ideas are the right ones. I like their motives for this project, but I find them to be very unrealistic. Intel can't make a system with a proper balance between physical size, power consumption, heat, price, and performance. MS just seems incapable of creating a lean OS.
You have no idea just how many embedded platforms ALREADY run full-fat windows (not even CE!). POS terminals, cash machines, lab equipment, medical equipment, even some industrial machinery!
These are all environments where having windows running on a SoC platform would be preferable to cramming most of an ATX system into the box.

Another area that I very much look forward to here is standalone media players. ARM-based systems are fine for a basic single-audio-channel-no-subs-level 4.1 h.264-in-MP4 file. But if you have Hi10p, or Ordered Chapters, or multiple audio/sub/video tracks etc, or you want to gain the benefits of MadVR and ReClock, then you need a Windows platform to do so. Or even if you want to use multiple streaming services without needing to wait for a box that just happens to have built in support for those services.
Being able to do essentially build a HTCP with SoC levels of power consumption in a tiny box? Much more preferable than being stuck with the limitations of an ARM SoC box.
schmidtbag 8th April 2014, 16:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by edzieba
You have no idea just how many embedded platforms ALREADY run full-fat windows (not even CE!). POS terminals, cash machines, lab equipment, medical equipment, even some industrial machinery!
These are all environments where having windows running on a SoC platform would be preferable to cramming most of an ATX system into the box.

Another area that I very much look forward to here is standalone media players. ARM-based systems are fine for a basic single-audio-channel-no-subs-level 4.1 h.264-in-MP4 file. But if you have Hi10p, or Ordered Chapters, or multiple audio/sub/video tracks etc, or you want to gain the benefits of MadVR and ReClock, then you need a Windows platform to do so. Or even if you want to use multiple streaming services without needing to wait for a box that just happens to have built in support for those services.
Being able to do essentially build a HTCP with SoC levels of power consumption in a tiny box? Much more preferable than being stuck with the limitations of an ARM SoC box.

I'm well aware the amount of embedded devices that run Windows. The problem is you're paying so much more by doing that, not just because of the license for Windows but because windows demands better hardware. You don't need a dual core CPU with 2GB of RAM for a POS machine, but there is no doubt in my mind that there are some Windows based POS machines that demand something better. Like I said, I'm not against the idea of what MS and Intel are trying to do, I just think they have unrealistic expectations because they have personal "standards" that they won't step below. They must step below these standards if they wish to make something that competes with ARM in terms of performance vs wattage vs price. For the record, I don't mean lowering their standards meaning making a worse product, I mean they need to stop expecting their products to do W, X, Y, and Z and just cut it down to Y and Z, or maybe even just Z.

I understand your HTPC idea too, but what you don't seem to realize is the intel+windows combo isn't going to be as small or power efficient as you think, and will almost certainly require a fan while costing you nearly twice the amount of the ARM competitor. There are ARM devices that can comfortably play 1080p video that are so small and light-weight that they can dangle from a cord, and they can be powered by your TV's USB port (if it has one). Many people think otherwise about these devices, because they use un-accelerated software, they expect these cheap devices to multitask for no apparent reason, and they use under-performing stock firmware.
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