As Windows has become less and less a revenue driver for Microsoft the company has become more and more prepared to look for other operating systems to solve problems.
Internet of Things devices has been the latest arena where any version of Windows has appeared to be hopeless overkill for the tiny processors and limited RAM these devices possess, resulting in limited if any traction for Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core OS. Even the Harman Kardon Invoke Cortana speaker, for example, runs a version of Linux.
Previously Microsoft may have continued to struggle to fit a square peg into a round hole but Satya Nadella’s Microsoft is a lot more pragmatic, resulting in today’s announcement of Azure Sphere OS.
Azure Sphere OS is a custom Linux distribution designed for small web-connected IoT devices such as toys and appliances, where full Windows is not suitable.
Part of an end to end solution which includes a chip design, the custom Linux distribution, Microsoft-designed security features and monitoring and the promise of 10 years of updates, the OS marks the first time in 43 years Microsoft has sold an OS not created in Microsoft. The design is open, so other companies may choose to connect the OS to other services besides Microsoft, and the OS is the first shipped by Microsoft which is fully open source.
Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek has suggested they may adopt the solution, which Microsoft says will not cost more than $10 per chipset.
With billions of IoT devices being shipped annually the market presents a massive opportunity, possibly even bigger than smartphones.