Is Windows 11 Good For Embedded Computers?
Posted on January 1, 2022
When it comes to embedded computers, updating to a new version of Windows is no simple matter. There are a large number of interconnected components in an industrial application, and even the smallest change can throw a spanner in the works.
This is why the question of whether or not you should upgrade your embedded systems to Windows 11 is not as straightforward as many would expect. There are many factors to consider, from the estimated arrival date of the various Windows versions to their lifecycle and duration of support.
Here is a breakdown of the issue.
The LTSC Conundrum
A Windows release is never just a single version. There are separate versions for Home, Business, as well as Enterprise users, with slightly different features. Embedded computers usually depend upon the IoT Enterprise and the LTSC versions.
And this is where the conundrum lies. The Longer-Term Service Channel (LTSC) version of Windows is always preferred for commercial setups as it comes with a longer service period. Microsoft commits to a system that will continue to work without any changes for a whopping ten years, along with support for any technical issues.
This basically guarantees you a smoothly running computer for the whole lifecycle of the hardware product, requiring you to upgrade only when you are getting a new board.
The standard enterprise version, on the other hand, offers just 24 months to 36 months of service. This might not be a problem for a stand-alone system, but an embedded computer at the heart of a complex application cannot afford frequent upgrades without throwing everything off-balance.
And so while the Windows 11 IoT Enterprise version is already out, it will only be supported for 36 months, and that too with annual updates. The LTSC version is still a couple of years away.
Windows 11 Roadmap
Microsoft has already announced that the Windows 11 IoT Enterprise LTSC will not be launched before 2023, and even that is tentative. Bugs and patches of the existing releases can very easily push that date further down the calendar.
At the same time, versions of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC will continue to be supported. This includes the 2015, 2016, and 2019 versions, which will receive Microsoft service for ten years since their release. The 2021 version has been recently launched as well, providing a better alternative than Windows 11 for systems looking to upgrade right now.
Alternatively, you can always upgrade to the standard Windows 11 IoT Enterprise version, for now, only to switch when the LTSC comes out. The 36 months of support are enough to cover the period and will keep the system at the cutting edge of Windows development.
Is the OS Too Demanding?
Some concern has also been raised about the exacting requirements of Windows 11. Apart from a generally higher memory and processing requirement, there is the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) feature, without which Windows 11 wouldn’t work.
Thankfully, most recent boards already include the module, even if it isn’t enabled. If you are getting a new embedded computer, TPM would be installed by default.
Compared to Windows 10, 11 is actually an upgrade in terms of speed and system efficiency. The whole OS has been optimized to work more smoothly, and take up fewer resources while running. For PCs, these small improvements are just welcome improvements, but for industrial computers, these are nothing short of advantageous.
Should You Upgrade To Windows 11 Right Now?
Currently, Windows 11 has only released the standard enterprise version. If your application only requires standalone computers that can be updated frequently, you can switch to Windows 11 without any hiccups.
But for organizations looking for a more long-term solution, it might be better to wait a couple of years. The Long-Term Service Channel (LTSC) version provides a better guarantee of stability and support and thus proves more cost-effective in the long run.
There is nothing wrong with sticking with Windows 10, either. The latest Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC version has already come out and will be serviced till 2031, which is a generous duration. An embedded computer framework that installs this version now can last its entire lifecycle without needing upgrades.