Last week the Microsoft Manufacturing User Group (MsMUG) held a three day event with about 150 people in attendence. I was unable to attend because of S4, but I did get some highlights from Jim Bauhs of Cargill.
There was a rumor in the community that Microsoft might come up with a limited, hardened version of the OS for the control systems / manufacturing environment. This rumor likely started because Microsoft created a limited, hardened version for point of sales terminals a year or so ago, and Microsoft was looking at where else this might make sense.
At MsMUG Microsoft made it clear there will not be a special version of a Microsoft OS for the control systems environment. Call me a Microsoft apologist, but this makes complete business sense. The market for this special OS is tiny in Microsoft numbers, and Microsoft is a for-profit business. It highlights one of the challenges the community faces. That is the size of the market is very small in IT software or hardware terms. So a vendor needs to either charge a sizable premium or find a way to leverage general purpose IT software or hardware for the control systems market.
MsMUG surveyed their participants on what factors were most important in the control system software. Not surprisingly Reliability scored the highest and was rated as either the #1 or #2 factor on 61% of the responses.
One of the biggest benefit to this event is a chance for cross education with the Manufacturers educating Microsoft on their needs and Microsoft updating the Manufacturers on their plans. This is important because Microsoft is dominating the control center and embedded XP is making inroads in the controller market.