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Windows 11 for Embedded Devices: Should You Use It?

By ·Categories: Depend OnLogic, Tech Explained·Published On: September 23rd, 2021·4.6 min read·

The question of using Windows 11 for embedded and IoT devices is becoming a popular one. It’s a question that has lacked a clear answer throughout the pre-launch phase of Microsoft’s latest OS. We’re here to clear things up.  And, we have great news — there’s a new Windows OS launching very soon that’s a perfect fit for embedded users – Windows 10 IoT LTSC 2021.

Windows 11 vs Windows 10 IoT LTSC for IoT Solutions

New versions of Microsoft’s ubiquitous operating system are always a hot topic of conversation. Exploration of high level features and hardware requirements are relevant to both the consumer and industrial space. (See the ongoing TPM 2.0 requirement angst). But for embedded hardware users and IoT device builders, the launch of a new Windows OS comes with additional questions, including: 

  • Does it have the features I need?
  • Will it be lean enough for my application?
  • Will it have long-term support to allow me to standardize?
  • What about ongoing security updates?

In the case of Windows 11 for embedded systems, while it’s certainly possible to install it on IoT devices, the standard versions (Home, Pro & Enterprise), are not designed specifically with the needs of embedded users in mind. The initial release of Windows 11, which is slated for October 5th, will only offer short-term support (24 months for Home & Pro, 36 months for Enterprise & Education versions). Builders of IoT and embedded devices frequently want to standardize on a platform. That means implementing an OS that will be supported for many years. Enter Windows LTSC.

Use Long-Term Service Channel for Long Lifecycle Support

We frequently recommend that customers use the long-term service channel (LTSC) versions of Windows operating systems. Implementing the LTSC version helps ensure that support and security updates are available for the life of a project. You can read more about the importance of lifecycle here. Unfortunately, the release of LTSC Windows versions always lag behind the initial launch. Windows 11 LTSC will be no exception. Early indications point to a post-2023 launch for Windows 11 IoT Enterprise LTSC.

The good news is that it just so happens that Microsoft is currently prepping the familiar Windows 10 IoT build for it’s LTSC version launch. Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC 2021 is slated for general availability later this year and offers a number of advantages for embedded users, including up to 10 years of support from Microsoft.

The Advantages of Windows IoT LTSC Over Windows Pro

Prior to Windows 10, Microsoft’s OS nomenclature specifically called out “embedded” in at least one version release. For years, Windows Embedded Standard 7 was the go-to option for embedded users who wanted to run a Microsoft OS. Then came Windows 10 and it’s Windows 10 IoT Core and Enterprise options. This effectively replaced the “embedded” versions. You can read more about the birth of Windows IoT here.

Windows IoT Built for Efficiency and Flexibility 

In addition to a lighter overall package built for efficiency and flexibility, Windows IoT provides an LTSC option. It also allows users to pick and choose the features they wish to provide to users. To create the desired experience for end users of OEM, embedded and IoT devices, graphical elements, settings and applications can be customized. Developers here often prefer to limit user interaction or customization for their solutions that perform a very specific task. Update schedules can also be set to prevent interruptions to systems and avoid unexpected changes to the OS, which can have negative impacts on user experience.

As mentioned, Windows 11 IoT LTSC will be available eventually, but not in the near-term. Now is the perfect time to investigate whether Windows 10 IoT LTSC is a good fit for you. Below you can see what we DO currently know about version launch dates.

Important dates for upcoming Windows releases from a recent Microsoft presentation.

Summary: What Windows OS Should I Use for Embedded Applications?

Stability is the key to embedded projects. As counterintuitive as it may be, the best fit Microsoft OS for embedded and IoT devices in late 2021 is actually Windows 10 IOT LTSC 2021. This is  the next long-term support version expected to be available later this year. Our team will qualify and make it available on OnLogic devices once it’s released. The Windows 10 platform has had more than six years of market availability to help work out the kinks. Countless security updates and bug fixes have made it incredibly stable and straightforward to integrate.

Of course, for our customers who use Windows Pro, we’ll also be working to qualify Windows 11 Pro following its October 5th launch. But, in general, there aren’t enough standout features for embedded users for us to recommend a speedy switch. You’ll be in a better position to succeed with the transition when Windows 11 has been fully vetted by device builders.

Every project is unique, and your operating system of choice will have a major impact on the function, efficiency and effectiveness of your IoT deployment. If you have questions about which OS is right for you, reach out to our team, and stay tuned here for updates.

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About the Author: Darek Fanton

Darek is the Communications Manager at OnLogic. His passion for both journalism and technology has led him from the newsrooms of local papers to the manufacturing floor of IBM. His background in news gathering has him always on the lookout for the latest in emerging tech and the best ways to share that information with readers. In addition to his affinity for words, Darek is a music lover, juggler and huge fan of terrible jokes.
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