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Microsoft releases Windows 10 for IoT Core

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August 30, 2016

Microsoft has released Windows 10 for IoT Core, a version of Windows which runs on Raspberry Pi 2 or 3, Dragonboard or Minnowboard.

Microsoft has also announced its support for Intel Joule, an Internet of Things (IoT) compute module launched at the August 2016 Intel Developer Forum, though Windows software for this is not yet publicly available.

But we've experienced a few annoyances with some failure dialogue boxes from the browser-based dashboard on the Raspberry Pi and other unusual behavior such as a refusal to set the keyboard layout to other than “English (United States)”.

We then selected a different keyboard, the screen went grey, then came back without changing it. But this worked fine when done later in a remote session, so this is unusual to day the least.

In Windows you can build applications in Visual Studio using C#, C++ or a variety of other languages. You can enrol IoT Core devices for management with System Center Configuration Manager, and you can easily connect IoT Core with Azure services for processing data, if that's what you wish to do.

However, the way Microsoft presents IoT Core is peculiar. It seems to have two goals in mind-- one is to support the hobbyist “Maker” community in order to attract developers to its platform, and the other is to provide large businesses with an end-to-end IoT solution.

It is the latter which has most business potential, but go to Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core developer site and you see sample applications with a hobbyist feel, such as an Air Hockey Robot and a connected clock radio. But when it comes to Raspberry Pi it's pretty much always been like that from what we've seen so far.

In essence, Windows 10 IoT Core is a cut-down version of Windows designed either to run headless with long-running applications that talk to sensors or other devices and then send the data for processing.

Or it can run a Windows UWP (Universal Windows Platform) application with a graphical interface. Only one UWP application can be in the foreground. On IoT Core, it is also possible to run a special kind of UMP “Background app”, without a GUI, for long-running tasks.

You can also configure an app to run at startup, and in fact the home screen is itself a UWP App, called IoT Core Default App, for which you can download the code from GitHub and perhaps fix the keyboard configuration bug we ran into earlier.

Microsoft has evolved the platform considerably since we last looked at it. There is now an IoT Dashboard application which is meant to simplify getting started. Provided you have an SD card reader, the application will download the operating system and write it to the card, configuring it with your choice of device name and administrator password.

Windows IoT Core running on a Raspberry Pi is a neat platform and it is easy to see its potential, especially for businesses with .NET development skills and Azure accounts.

It's not an alternative to Linux if you want a full-features OS on a Pi, but could be used for all sorts of home automation, robotics or multimedia projects.

Considering the importance of stability and a low maintenance overhead for an IoT platform, it's a shame we ran into so many annoyances in the initial setup, leading to an impression that it's not yet ready for business.

With Microsoft’s efforts to get .NET Core working on Linux, we can ponder whether that alternative route to bringing IoT on devices such as the Pi into the Windows and .NET ecosystem may be more productive.

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