Microsoft has released a version of its .Net programming framework for coding on everyday devices such as microwave ovens and remote controls.
The .Net Micro Framework provides a platform for running programs using the C++ language on small devices, the company announced Tuesday at Embedded World 2007 in Nuremberg, Germany. It also released a software development kit.
Microsoft has made a strong push into the embedded device development area. The company is trying to attract developers who may have avoided using its Windows CE embedded OS because the associated hardware was too expensive and the OS had too many features, said Colin Miller, product unit manager.
Those developers could be working on code for devices such as a retail kiosk, Miller said.
Often, those developers may have turned to embedded Linux programs, Miller said. But some developers don't want to run both Linux and Microsoft programming environments because of the complexity, Miller said.
The SDK can be used to develop programs using the company's Visual Studio development software. Its features include hardware emulation and graphical debugging of emulated and real hardware. The framework and SDK supports hardware platforms based on Arm 7 and Arm 9 microprocessor cores, which are used in many consumer devices such as microwave ovens.
Microsoft said the SDK and the .Net Micro framework can be used to develop a range of applications, such as home automation systems, industrial sensors, retail displays and health care monitors.
Miller said Microsoft will work on adding Web services features to the platform that will enable plug-and-play functionality. For example, a consumer who buys a new dishwasher would be able to directly integrate the appliance into their home automation system.
Microsoft will use volume licensing for the .Net Micro Framework and SDK, charging about $1 to $2 per device, Miller said.
The company has sought to make the work of embedded systems developers easier with the .Net Micro Framework, Rob Miles, a lecturer in the computer science department at the University of Hull in Hull, England, and rated by Microsoft as a "Most Valuable Professional," wrote on his blog.
Writing code for small devices has been difficult since programmers had to learn low-level interfacing and write code that runs directly on the hardware, Miles wrote. The programs are hard to debug, and the programmers had to use lots of new tools, he wrote.
With the .Net Micro Framework, the code can be written and debugged in Visual Studio 2005. The hardware features are exposed in an object-oriented manner "which makes them very easy to use," Miles wrote.
"This will make embedded code much easier to create and open it up to a wider range of developers," Miles wrote.
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