Microsoft has officially made what it describes as a 'non-commercial' version of its Windows 8.1 operating system, dubbed Windows on Devices, available for free download to all Intel Galileo owners.
Microsoft announced Windows on Devices as part of an offer to give free Intel Galileo boards to developers
, but it was vague in the extreme as to what it was actually offering. The company's Windows Embedded product requires a system far more powerful than the Galileo, which comes as standard running an extremely paired-down version of GNU/Linux courtesy the Yocto Project. The company would later clarify that yes, it was intending to ship the devices with a specialised version of Windows more suited to the 32-bit 400MHz Quark chip found on the Galileo.
For those wanting to try the new software, a distinct departure from the company's usual fare, Microsoft has officially released it for download. Unlike its usual Windows launches, the software is being offered entirely free of charge via its GitHub repository
. Before you get too excited, however, there are several caveats. The initial release supports the original Intel Galileo exclusively; anyone with the new Intel Galileo Gen 2
, a vastly improved design over its predecessor, will need to wait for a future software update. More importantly, the neither model of Galileo includes any easily-accessible video output unless you're willing to start hooking display panels directly to the board.
The new Windows on Devices platform, of course, isn't designed for use as a cheap desktop system. It's Microsoft's effort to stem the tide of embedded devices which run real-time code on microcontrollers or Linux variants on microprocessors by offering its own embedded platform that will be accessible using the familiar Windows application programming interfaces (APIs) - making it easier, in theory, for desktop software developers to make the move into the embedded space. Whether the company will succeed in breaking into the market remains to be seen.