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When Eben Upton announced the Raspberry Pi 2 he also announced it would support Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system. No one knew what the operating system would look like running on the Raspberry Pi and interest and speculation have run high about this topic. Here's what we know so far.
What are People Hoping for?
When someone says 'Windows' then what you are probably thinking about looks like this:
In the screenshot, the default Windows 10 desktop, something which many people by now are (or will be) familiar to see, and much to the chagrin of open source aficionado's this is not what a collection of people want. Whenever Microsoft is mentioned, it is often seen in the same vain as 'proprietary' and 'locked down' with an operating system that is riddled with bugs, viruses and a confusing user experience. I have also read that there are groups of people that fear this is Microsoft's way of muscling into the education market and pushing out Linux in favor of something which is more familiar and learned than a Linux operating system. Often seen as harsh with its package management, text interface and X environment.
So what will Microsoft Windows on the Raspberry Pi actually look like?
If you are not already familiar with it, there is a website dedicated to Microsoft's Windows Developer Program for the Internet of Things. Originally this developer program requested people to fill out a survey. It would ask what software integrated development environments people were familiar with and what projects they were working on. It also asked what hardware people had or intended on working with.
Proposed from this survey was to be sent a 'development kit' that would consist of an Intel Galileo board along with relevant softwares/parts and it not much else was said about it. The web page presented information of working with Arduino, sketches and its respective IDE.
It was not until the announcement of the Raspberry Pi 2 that Microsoft included the Foundation's board on this same page and equally suggested that the Pi was to be supported by Windows 10. In fact, you can still sign up to become an "early adopter" for what is referred to as 'Windows on Devices'. It is worth noting at present that this developer program is aimed at the consumer at present, the home user, or specifically for 'noncommercial development' - an update on this is Microsoft have since been quoted as saying commercial licenses will be detailed in summer 2015. Which probably means that the free Windows 10 build will have a very particular user license agreement to specify so.
Now what comes from this is the observation that the build of Windows for IoT development is not a GUI, desktop based system which the typical user is familiar with. It is a headless board which, my understanding is, that you compile code for from a desktop system running the relevant IDE (probably Visual Studio) and upload to the board to then run autonomously and it can be managed with command line access.
There are builds of "Windows for IoT" available for the Intel Galileo board via Microsoft Connect, which lists further insights including the name that this is also referred to as "Windows Embedded". So that's three names, now: "Windows Embedded", "Windows for IoT" and "Windows 10". Which all appear to refer to the same build, or iterations of:
Where is it and which is it, then?
Still very much in development, the first place it would probably turn up is the Windows IoT early adopter program or on Microsoft Connect. Microsoft recently did a blog which covered more information which provided a general view of what would run on the hardware:
Although the profile of the Raspberry Pi more closely fits 'IoT for industry devices' it is not an x86 based board. Which means it either falls under 'mobile devices' or 'small devices' and I suspect this is where the grey area lies, but in Microsoft's definition a mobile device is purely a phone or a tablet.
This means that the Raspberry Pi will likely be considered a 'small device' and will run Windows 10 without a shell, but will support Universal Apps, etc. as listed in one of Microsoft's latest blogs. There are, understandably, people asking for clarification, but it should be noted that in other blogs, Microsoft are specific about Intel's offerings and what they will run, but not necessarily the Raspberry Pi.
Which direction will it go? We still have to wait and see for assertive confirmation.