Microsoft has pledged to help support Windows developers with an officially-certified line of development boards, starting later this year with Intel's Sharks Cove platform.
Not to be confused with Intel's open hardware projects Galileo
, the latter in cooperation with BeagleBoard and BeagleBone creator CircuitCo, the new development boards are built to Microsoft's specifications to create an off-the-shelf development environment for creating Windows software optimised for system-on-chip (SoC) platforms.
'Hardware engineers have traditionally faced challenges in creating Windows drivers for SoC platforms,
' admitted Microsoft in a statement regarding the upcoming programme. 'Unlike PCs, which have PCI slots and USB ports, SoC systems like tablets and clamshells use low-power internal buses that lack standard connectors, Plug and Play support, and discovery mechanisms. Often these devices are protected by secure boot and cannot be used to develop or test third-party drivers. That will soon change. Hardware engineers will be able to buy off-the-shelf boards that are designed to work with specific SoC environments.
Intel's Sharks Cove will be one of the first, the company confirmed. A single-board computer (SoC) design, the Sharks Cove board breaks out all the functionality of Intel's Atom system-on-chip (SoC) platform; even portions which are rarely used, such as general-purpose input-output (GPIO) connectivity, will be readily accessible using expansion connectors. The aim, Microsoft claimed, is to make the development of Windows drivers for SoCs as easy as possible.
Sharks Cove won't be the last board, either: Microsoft has promised that several boards will be available later this year, with a number of ARM-based boards - for Windows RT development - likely to launch alongside Intel's offering. Pricing has not been confirmed, but these are not Raspberry Pi competitors; with a professional feature set and formal Microsoft certification, these engineering boards will be priced for corporate purchases only.
Intel has not yet confirmed the specifications of Sharks Cove, with more information expected later this year ahead of a planned 2H 2014 launch.