Microsoft is hoping two new iterations of Windows 10 IoT Core will provide a viable, long-term alternative to the open source operating systems that are currently widely used for IoT devices.

In an attempt to win back market share in the embedded device space, Microsoft has released a royalty free version that brings automatic software updates to devices, and a ‘Pro’ version provides the ability to defer updates and control distribution of updates through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

“Microsoft has lost the early headstart it had in embedded systems, which are the backbone of IoT infrastructure,” IBRS advisor Dr. Joseph Sweeney told IoT Hub.

“They’ve had to do something about this loss of market share, and they perhaps should have done it a number of years ago.”

Sweeney believes that Microsoft’s strategy to win back embedded system market share could be a decade-long exercise, and its close connections with the education sector, coders and builders may help its cause.

As IoT systems are expected to work for longer periods of time, Microsoft could provide companies a higher level of assurance that ongoing support will be available throughout the lifetime of those products.

However, Microsoft may also face challenges convincing developers to adopt the platform due to licensing issues.

“The operating system will remain Microsoft’s technology, and I don’t see Microsoft changing its stance on this,” Sweeney said.

“You have to have some level of trust that the vendor would not try to monetise that ecosystem very aggressively in the future, which is something that Microsoft are very good at.”

Sweeney suspects that Microsoft is hoping to leverage the familiarity of its platform and existing skills base in the market to give organisations a headstart on IoT.

However, he is cautious about the approach.

“Anyone that’s developing for truly embedded systems and IoT know that the design skills you require are quite different to those for desktop software and large-scale applications,” Sweeney noted.

“It’s a very different set of principles, so I would question that having a common set of APIs and common codebase – while useful – is not where the real value is.”

In the longer term, Sweeney predicts that operating systems for IoT will become irrelevant, and that standardised APIs will become more important.

“IoT discussions will turn to the things that are built and what they’re capable of doing – the reality is, very few people want to worry about the OS that’s used to deliver these systems,” he said.

“The next step from that discussion will centre around industry APIs – how do we build IoT devices that speak a common language, how do we manage those devices, how do we upgrade those devices through a common set of APIs?

“Microsoft has a strong capability in that space as well, but it won’t be a vendor that owns this, it’ll be driven by an open standards community.”