People that are not familiar with retail kiosks and digital signage networks are often surprised to see that 85% of the kiosks and DS systems in place are using Windows. All they can think about is the horrible experiences they have with their laptop or home PC that their kids use for gaming and downloading of who knows what! I would also lose faith if that was what was being suggested. But what most do not know is that the version of Windows used is often a flavor of Windows Embedded.
What is this you ask? It’s a scaled down installation of the basic Windows framework with only what you need for that specific hardware device and nothing you don’t need. The installation is often customized by the hardware provider to include appropriate device drivers and custom components of Windows needed for the application (JPOS, UPOS, etc) and is very stable. We have some units running on kiosks out in the field that have been going for over three years with not a single problem or visit from our IT staff needed. It runs on anything from a hand held scanner for warehouse operations to a touch screen kiosk, digital signage media player, or any number of other devices. It is essentially a skinny version of Windows XP.
The old version was was often referred to as WEPOS (Windows Embedded for Point of Sale) but they deemed that too narrow focused. A newer version is called POSReady which I don’t think is a much better name, but it includes much of the newer technologies from more current versions of Windows. Now, with the release of Windows 7 to rave reviews (it is mucho better in our staff’s opinion) there is even a newer version coming out called Windows Embedded Standard 7 and is built on the Win7 platform with newer .NET support. There is even a version for Windows CE. It may be easier to view this grid comparison from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsembedded/en-us/products/default.mspx
With all of these choices it can be confusing. Ultimately, it depends on what is offered by the hardware vendor since they must first invest a lot of time and effort into creating a custom “image” that works on their hardware. Some hardware may not have the newer versions available yet, but most due. Since many of our kiosk and media players use this version of Embedded I have posted a document that explains the difference between the older WEPOS (still available) and the newer POSReady that also shows the end of life support dates. Download it here for FREE.
If you have questions, or really want a Linux system instead (we still love you) give us a call or drop us an email and we will help provide the appropriate system and software for your needs. And here is a link to my older Kiosk Blog post on various OS systems (Windows, Linux, Mac, etc) used for kiosks.
Have you had good or bad experiences with Windows Embedded or Linux for Kiosks, Digital signage or other similar devices? Use the comment feature below to tell us about it.