Microsoft Auto 4.0 fine-tuned - Embedded.com

Microsoft Auto 4.0 fine-tuned

MUNICH, Germany — When Microsoft will come to the IAA automotive fair in Frankfurt, it has a fine-tuned version of MS Auto 4.0 in its baggage — with a long list of features added over the past few months.

While former releases 1.0 and 2.0 were more version developed in behalf of specific customers (Ford and Fiat), the current version 4.0 is a product developed with a higher degree of independency. Nevertheless, the software vendor claims to have taken into account numerous requirements from automotive OEMs and tier ones as potential customers.

Against earlier versions, the boot time of MS Auto 4.0 has been improved drastically, explains Microsoft customer engineering manager Reiner Gerczuk. This could be achieved by a staged boot process which in turn embraces a number of single measures: The operating environment does not need to be booted at a single blow. After having loaded a mini kernel of 2.5 MByte in minimum configuration (in more realistic configurations, about 7.5 MByte) from the NAND flash into main memory, the platform can start to do useable tasks; the remaining parts of the operating systems are loaded upon request. Responsible for this ability is the 'image file system' that enables software routines to access memory contents faster, albeit at the expense of address relocation ability. It also supports demand loading which means that DLLs and other memory blocks are loaded into the main memory only when needed.

Thus, the radio receiver integrated as a peripheral device into the Auto 4.0 environment, comes to live after less than 1 second. After 5 to 10 seconds, the environment has reached full functionality including its HMI.

Another measure to speed up the boot sequence is that the graphical subsystem is now launched at an earlier point within the sequence. Thus, cameras for driver assistance systems are available sooner. In addition, the Microsoft developers created what they call Device Parameter Store (DPS) that contains start-up and operating parameters for peripheral devices. Unlike the registry, where these parameters have been stored in earlier versions, the DPS is available immediately after the system has been powered up.The underlying operating system for MS Auto 4.0, Windows Embedded CE, now bears the version number 6.0 R2. Several networking routines have been added recently; among them are CAN, IPC and IEEE 1394 protocol stacks.

Most of the added features for the current MS Auto 4.0 edition have been created with the role of the software environment in the head unit in mind. Thus, there is a focus on multimedia capabilities and infotainment functions. Also integrating CE devices including mobile handsets is one of the focus areas for the software. With regard to these functions, the built-in Bluetooth functionality has seen many detail updates with support for MP3 files being one of the most visible. Other codecs can be retrofitted as plug-ins by third-party vendors.

In telematics and navigation, location based services play an increasing role. With the ability to provide internet-based search functions for navigation systems, Microsoft takes this trend into account. This enables users to reproduce the location of anything on the navigation screen they are searching for (if the GPS does support the function). The default search engine is, not surprisingly, Microsoft's Bling.

Other recent enhancements are support for multiple audio streams, enabling users in the front seat and in the back seat to listen to different sounds. In addition, the system now supports ripping of audio CDs to a fixed disk. Even data CDs and DVDs containing MP3 files are supported. For 2010, Microsoft plans to come to market with another iteration of its automotive software environment. The system is currently under development under the project name Motegi. The underlying operating system for Motegi will be Windows CE 7.0 which will available by then. Major modifications can be expected around the HMI — the software vendor plans to offer a complete Human-Machine Interface even though most car vendors regard the design of their proprietary HMI as one of their core competences. Along with Motegi, Microsoft plans to offer a graphical runtime framework and a set of tools for programmers to enable them to generate their own GUIs.

Further down the Microsoft Auto roadmap, the Fontana version will reflect Microsoft's efforts to offer a complete feature set including a navigation system platform. In Fontana at latest, the Silverlight graphics technology will be applied. In addition, the company plans to offer multicore and hyperthreading support with Fontana — after all, in the automotive head unit hardware increasingly multi-core microprocessors are being used.

Related links and articles:

Microsoft Auto 4.0 ready to roll

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