There's a good reason why Microsoft (www.microsoft.com; Redmond, WA) just released the latest version of its automotive-grade software platform—Windows Automotive 5.0—first in Japan rather than anywhere else in the world. "There is a night and day difference between the current status of Japanese navigation system development and that of the U.S. and Europe," says Peter Wengert, group manager, sales and marketing, Microsoft Corp.'s Automotive Business Unit. And given the sophisticated 3D graphics, satellite photos and enhanced voice recognition Japanese developers like Alpine, Panasonic and Kenwood are building into their latest systems, many of the advanced features needed in next-generation software platforms are being driven by their efforts. For example, Microsoft has added a new feature to Windows Automotive called the "Automotive User Interface Toolkit" aimed at speeding the development of user interfaces, especially those employing high-end 3D graphics and animation, by automatically generating code which currently must be written manually. Another upgrade that facilitates memory-hungry advanced features is an expansion of virtual memory up to 96 MB.
On a more basic level, Windows Automotive responds to the need for greater reliability in automotive software by adding "Automotive System Tools," which include testing and development support tools designed to help developers create more stable and bug-free code. Microsoft has long touted Windows Automotive as a scalable end-to-end solution which can handle everything from basic to advanced applications, largely because it is based on the real-time embedded operating system Window CE. This latest version seeks to extend that soup-to-nuts appeal by supporting the two most commonly used CPUs, as well as common standards like 802.11, UPnP, USB, XML and SOAP.—KEW