Beginning in April, MS announced a batch of partnerships and development advances to support IoT and related technologies.
Microsoft has traditionally been a software company, and its forays into hardware—with the notable exception of XBox—have been interesting, but never generally have generated sufficient momentum for those products to mature in the marketplace.
This time around, Microsoft's approach to hardware begins on the ground floor. Rather than engineering finished products, MS now aims to build on the popularity and accessibility of products like Rasperrby Pi.
Foremost among these efforts is Windows 10 IoT Core edition (download page link)—intended to serve low-cost, simple devices of the type that are beginning to form the basis of the IoT. Free for "makers" and commercial users, the latest version (of late September) supports the following hardware:
Raspberry Pi 2
The Raspberry Pi 2's support includes a partnership with popular electronics vendor and IoT scene maven, adafruit.com. Consumers can buy a kit at adafruit, and walk through a tailored tutorial at Microsoft's GitHub.
The MinnowBoard Max runs an Intel Atom processor and provides the possibility to leverage the kind of well-understood CPU that laptops use, but in completely open hardware suitable for embedding.
Windows Remote Arduino and Windows Virtual Shields for Arduino
Microsoft's “Arduino Certified” status means developers can plan on creating for devices which combine the hardware of Arduino with the software capabilities of Windows.
In addition, the special-purpose edition makes moves to support a full stack of IoT ecosystem technologies by including popular protocols and busses, including support for common USB devices like WiFi dongles.
Microsoft also made it a priority to get feedback from the community about the granular technical needs of IoT Core. The latest update includes specific changes based on interaction with the community:
[W]e’ll be including many of the changes and requests that you have made, such as adding support for pulse-width modulation (PWM) and analog-to-digital converters (ADC) via an integrated and extensible provider API, addressing issues around the USB HID class driver, and many bug fixes. We also saw how popular the web-based device management interface is with customers, so we’re continuing the investment in it...
Steve Teixeira on the Windows Blog
IoT Core's software goals go beyond compatibility; last month, the IoT team made a Node.js development kit available in a single-bundle installer with the Visual Studio extensions and sample templates needed to get started.
MS partners with diy-oriented website hackster.io to host how-tos for projects created with the nascent technologies. Judging from the sophisticated and detailed information provided there, like this tutorial on home automation, the approach is already yielding interesting results.