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Windows Embedded is a family of operating systems from Microsoft designed for use in embedded systems. Microsoft makes available four different categories of operating systems for embedded devices targeting a wide market, ranging from small-footprint, real-time devices to point of sale (POS) devices like kiosks. Windows Embedded operating systems are available to OEM system builders, who make it available to end users preloaded with the hardware.
Win3.x had an embedded version found typically on POS terminals. The NT series developed an embedded product called "XPembedded". Current Windows CE base is version 6.0 R3 which runs on ARM, X86, SH, and derivatives of those architectures. It is a real-time operating system. A .NET Framework, UI framework, and various open source drivers and services are also included.
In mid-1999, Microsoft has been working with a partner VentureCom, for their Windows NT Embedded product. Microsoft decided in early 2000 that was s best to take that architecture and make a new product leveraging the new Windows code. A new Windows Embedded team was formed, under the leadership of Bruce Beachman. Bruce Beachman served as the Product Unit Manager (PUM) of the first Windows Embedded, using the Windows XP code based, thus code named (XPE), and he started recruiting engineers within Microsoft, and formed the initial team with these earlier members:
- Group PM: Tim Hill, who was in charge of the PM team, and served as the overall architect;
- Program Manager Mike Cherry, who was leading the infrastructural process work;
- Program Manager Bill Luan, who was in charge of the design of the first internal tool iCat, which enabled all the Windows team engineers to "componentize" their features in Windows. Later this product became the Windows Embedded Component Designer in the released product;
- Program Manager Steve Jiang, who was in charge of the first version of the Target Design, which is the product that enabled developers to build embedded target images.
Target Designer and Component Designer was the two-parts suite in the first version of Windows Embedded Suite. The first test team manager was Bombo Sofa, who lead the first XPE Test team starting in 2000. Under Bruce Beachman's leadership, Microsoft shipped the first version of Windows Embedded (XPE) at the DevCon / Windows Hardware Conference in 2001.
In 2002, Bruce Beachman left Microsoft, and Peter Wilson took over the XPE team as its PUM, and by then the team was merged into Windows Deployment team, and they released XPE SP1 at DevCon in Las Vegas in late 2003.
The Windows Embedded family 
Windows Embedded Compact 
Windows Embedded Compact (previously known as Windows Embedded CE or Windows CE) is the version of Windows Embedded for very small computers and embedded systems, including consumer electronics devices like set-top boxes and gaming consoles. Windows Embedded Compact is a modular real-time operating system with a specialized kernel that can run in under 1 MB of memory. It comes with the Platform Builder tool that can be used to add modules to the installation image to create a custom installation, depending on the device used. Windows Embedded Compact is available for ARM, MIPS, SuperH and x86 processor architectures.
Microsoft made available a specialized version of Windows Embedded Compact, known as Windows Mobile, for use in mobile phones. It is a customized image of Windows Embedded Compact along with specialized modules for use in Mobile phones. Windows Mobile is available in four variants: Windows Mobile Classic (for Pocket PC), Windows Mobile Standard (for smartphones) and Windows Mobile Professional (for PDA/Pocket PC Phone Edition) and Windows Mobile for Automotive (for communication/entertainment/information systems used in automobiles). Modified versions of Windows Mobile were used for Portable Media Centers. Windows Mobile has now been replaced by Windows Phone 7, which is also based on Windows Embedded Compact, but is not compatible with any previous products.
Windows Embedded Standard 
Windows Embedded Standard (2009) is the updated version of Windows XP Embedded, the fully componentized version of Windows XP Professional and the successor to Windows NT 4.0 Embedded. It provides the full Win32 API and is available for x86 processors. Windows Embedded Standard 2009 includes Silverlight, .NET Framework 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, RDP 6.1, Network Access Protection, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and support for being managed by Windows Server Update Services and System Center Configuration Manager.
Windows Embedded Standard 7, is based on Windows 7 which was previously codenamed Windows Embedded 'Quebec'. Windows Embedded Standard 7 includes Windows Vista and Windows 7 features  such as Aero, SuperFetch, ReadyBoost, BitLocker Drive Encryption, Windows Firewall, Windows Defender, Address space layout randomization, Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight 2, Windows Media Center among several other packages. It is available in IA-32 and x64 versions and was released in 2010. It has a larger minimum footprint (~300 MB) compared to 40 MB of XPe and also requires product activation. Windows Embedded Standard 7 was released on April 27, 2010.
Windows Embedded Professional 
Windows Embedded Professional brand of Windows Embedded operating systems consist of Windows XP for Embedded Systems and Windows Vista for Embedded Systems, which are the same versions of the OSes as are available in retail but are licensed exclusively for use in embedded devices. They are available for both IA-32 as well as x64 processors. Microsoft has renamed "Windows Embedded Enterprise" to "Windows Embedded Professional" for Windows Embedded 8 that has been released.
Windows Embedded Industry 
Windows Embedded Industry is the brand of Windows Embedded operating systems for industry devices and once only for point of sale systems. This brand was limited to the Windows Embedded for Point of Service operating system released in 2006, which is based on Windows XP Embedded.  Microsoft also have an updated version of Windows Embedded for Point of service, named Windows embedded POSReady 2009. However, Windows Embedded POSReady 7 was released in 2011 which succeeded Windows Embedded for Point of Service. Microsoft has since changed the name of this product from "Windows Embedded POSReady" to "Windows Embedded Industry". Microsoft has released a Release Preview of Windows Embedded 8 Industry in January 2013 and has been Released To Manufacturing since April 2013.
Windows Embedded NAVReady 
Windows Embedded NAVReady also called as Navigation Ready which is plug-in component for Windows CE 5.0 and useful for building portable handheld navigation devices.
Windows Embedded Automotive 
Windows Embedded Automotive (also previously known as Microsoft Auto, Windows CE for Automotive, Windows Automotive, and Windows Mobile for Automotive) is an embedded operating system based on Windows CE for use on computer systems in automobiles.
Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 
On January 10, 2011, Microsoft announced Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5. The operating system has compatibility with Windows Mobile 6.5 and is presented as an enterprise handheld device, targeting retailers, delivery companies, and other companies that rely on handheld computing. Unlike Windows Phone, Windows Embedded Handheld retains backward compatibility with legacy Windows Mobile applications.
Windows Embedded Server 
Windows Embedded Server is exactly the same as desktop server products and technically there is no difference, but legally should be used only for embedded applications and products.
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