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What is Windows IoT Enterprise?

Posted on December 12, 2023

Formerly called Windows Embedded, Windows IoT is the newest interaction of Windows for commercial and industrial embedded PCs. But how exactly does it differ from standard Windows? Let’s find out.

An Operating System for Scaled Computing

The version of Windows distributed for home computers comes bundled with a variety of features to make life easier for casual users. But this also ends up somewhat bloating its size, especially if you are looking for an OS for small embedded devices or IoT (Internet-of-Things) computers.

That’s where Windows Embedded or Windows IoT Enterprise comes in. The key conceit of this version of Windows is that it is completely customizable; you can pick and choose which features, updates, or packages to install.

This lets you create the perfect operating system for your specific applications without having to give up on the robust Microsoft ecosystem. Better yet, Windows IoT Enterprise implements many specialized features like Kiosk Mode or Advanced Lockdown that come in handy for most commercially deployed computers.

And that’s before we go into all the tools put in place for device management or optimization, letting you efficiently run a network of IoT computers.

10-Year Service Cycle

A major irritant with normal Windows is the frequent updates. For a home user, these are trivial to install, but for an enterprise system operating 24/7, any downtime or frequent feature changes can be an issue.

For functional products like Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminals and medical devices, stability and consistency are more important than minor performance updates. This is why Windows IoT Enterprise comes with an LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) version.

Such enterprise systems are supported by Microsoft for a 10-year service cycle with no major changes that could upend your system’s functioning. New versions of Windows IoT Enterprise LTSC are only launched once every three years after the updates have been thoroughly tested and stabilized.

Such LTSC versions of Windows were earlier offered for standard Windows workstations as well, but the service cycle for those computers has been reduced to 5 years now, leaving the Windows IoT Enterprise as the only OS that can give you a 10-year long service cycle.

Ideal for Lean Hardware

Many embedded systems are deployed in scenarios where the size and power constraints have to be taken into consideration. Such boards are usually built with low-power processors and limited storage, making it essential for the OS to be similarly lean and efficient.

Windows IoT Enterprise fits the bill perfectly since the operating system can be customized by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to include only the components needed and remove every extraneous bit.

This makes it perfect for applications like digital signage and billing systems, or even advanced equipment like medical diagnostic devices and industrial automation. There are also a wide variety of editions supporting all kinds of processors, from the latest i7 to Intel Atom or even ARM processors.

Can You Install Windows IoT Enterprise on any System?

The “Enterprise” part of its name is not just marketing – the Windows IoT Enterprise is not a publicly available version of Windows. You cannot just buy a copy and install it on your laptop or desktop, or download it anywhere.

As an enterprise offering meant for embedded computing, the IoT Enterprise is only available to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) for installation on any commercial systems being sold. Only these registered entities can customize the OS and distribute these Windows licenses.

And that’s a good thing because the Windows IoT Enterprise is not suitable for home PCs. The LTSC version, especially, lacks many of the bells and whistles that make Windows what it is, since it is designed to work similarly across long periods without any updating components.

Is Windows IoT Enterprise Worth It?

There aren’t that many choices of an OS for embedded computers. Linux is used in many enterprise systems due to its small footprint and incredible customization, but it is not the most user-friendly or feature-rich operating system.

And for things like kiosks or IoT devices, you preferably want an OS that can be easily used by every employee. This is where Windows IoT Enterprise comes in.

It is the leanest Windows version that can be installed in the simplest of computing devices, from standalone kiosks and terminals to interconnected IoT systems. And with its long service cycle and advanced enterprise features, it gives excellent life to your embedded computers.