Windows Embedded Compact 2013 (WEC2013) has great graphics and the XMAL /Silverlight support makes it great for User Interface (UI) development. With WEC 2013 many of the traditional user shell components, like the control panel, have been removed. This shifts most of the UI burden back on the OS developer. Not to worry though, there are some great samples included with WEC2013 and the development tools are now top notch.

Here is an example of a home screen and the control panel included in WEC7 but removed in WEC2013:

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And here is an example of a home screen included as sample code in WEC 2013:


You can clearly see the improvements.

One additional nice feature of the new graphics framework is its ability to support “hardware acceleration”. Most all the new PCs graphic cards do some form of hardware acceleration and now even the lower-end embedded Systems On a Chip (SOC’s) include graphics accelerators or GPUs.

The Beagleboard Black, which contains a Texas Instruments AM335X processor, is no exception. It incorporates what is called a SGX graphics engine. This engine improves both 2D and 3D rendering by delivering up to 20 million polygons per second. BSP support is available in WEC7 by adding the PowerVR components as a render plugin to the display driver during the build process. There are also several example videos file available that show off the different graphic capabilities. These were developed by Imagination Technology, who licenses the IP to TI for incorporation into their chip. This engine also has API support for OpenGL (ES 1.1 and 2.0) and OpenVG (v1.0.1). These are emerging industry standards supported by many third party applications and seem to be the wave of the future.

Here are some videos showing PowerVR in action.

Indeed even Windows Embedded makes use of the OpenGL standard as its framework for support of accelerated graphics.

Unfortunately, there is trouble in paradise. Texas Instruments only supplied a prebuilt library for PowerVR support. And in WEC2013, the designers broke binary compatibility with the new build system. So what does this all mean? Well it basically boils down to this, the ddi_powervr.lib that worked in WEC7 cannot be ported to WEC2013 without rebuilding it. Microsoft feels it is not their responsibility stating the old “contact the vendor” in the BSPs readme for the TI44XX, which also incorporates the same graphics engine. And TI has, at least unofficially, dropped all support for Windows Embedded Compact to concentrate on Linux. Without the source for the ddi_powervr.lib and TI’s unwillingness to share it, we seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. To bad as it probably would be a simple matter of just recompiling the source using the new tool chain..probably no other changes would be needed. 

Are there any alternatives? Well, not many:

1. You can still use Silverlight in WEC2013, you just won’t get the added benefits of hardware graphics acceleration.

2. You can use the WEC7 BSP as its implementation of PowerVR works just fine.