Windows and Intel have dominated the purpose-built device fleet market for decades. For over 20 years, organizations have used the combination of Windows Embedded (POSReady, Industry) or Windows CE to build specialized devices. This made sense when there was a rich supply of x86-based hardware and Microsoft was driving innovation and progress on the OS. But that time has ended, leaving a slew of otherwise functional x86 devices outdated and insecure. 

Enter the answer to this quandary: Android x86

The downfall of Windows x86

Industries have been disrupted by Microsoft regularly ending updates (EOL, or End of Life) for Windows Embedded and Windows CE. This means no more security patches for these aging operating systems, leaving them at severe risk of exploitation or abuse. Microsoft, meanwhile, is transitioning from an operating system-driven company to a cloud and app model.

This puts enterprises with Windows-based x86 devices running critical manufacturing processes, conducting sensitive payment transactions, and holding private consumer data in a tough spot. Android is the right way to go, and any new additions to device fleets should run it.

The opportunity for Android on x86 hardware

Enterprises have millions of dollars invested in x86 hardware delivering on their purpose-built tasks. As these systems reach Windows EOL, that leaves a couple of choices: rip and replace, which is costly and complex, or flip from Windows to Android. But wait — isn’t Android for ARM architecture

While Android started as a smartphone OS built on ARM, it has come a long way from its humble roots. Android x86 has existed as an unofficial open source project since 2009 and gained widespread traction since then. And that’s where Esper — and how we can help flip, secure, and breathe new life into EOLed Windows Embedded and CE devices. 

We have our own platform based on AOSP (Android Open Source Project) called Esper Foundation for Android (Foundation). Since it’s based on AOSP, it can be custom built for ARM and x86 devices alike (we call this version Foundation x86). We get that every situation is different, and Foundation is flexible, agile, and completely customizable to fit almost any of them. 

With Foundation, we can offer tighter control over the system image, elevated security in the kernel, and the ability to take control of updates and patches. Customers running Foundation aren’t left at the whim of the device maker for critical updates — we’ve addressed these pain points with Foundation. Paired with Esper Architect, it’s a full-stack solution for any size device fleet from end to end. 

Features of Esper Foundation for Android

Since Foundation is custom built for every situation, we offer control, customization, and options you simply won’t find anywhere else. Here are a few of the core features of Foundation: 

  • Highly Configurable – Esper Foundation for Android can be tailored to your specific requirements and use cases, be it retail kiosks, digital signage, and more. Flexibility and customization are core to the Foundation experience. 
  • Simple and Easy – Devices shipped after set up and will be ready to run with Esper. All you have to do is turn them on and manage apps and devices remotely. 
  • Increased Security – Foundation uses a hardened kernel with firmware matched to the device. If your device is stolen, factory reset can be accessed only through the Esper console. And that’s just one of the ways we help protect your devices
  • Easy operations – The Esper console is so simple to use that it applies to a wide range of IT resources.   

How Esper can help flip your x86 devices to Android

Foundation x86 was born out of necessity — we built it for a customer turning thousands of throw-away Windows CE devices into a continuing productive hardware asset. This particular customer already had an Android version of their app; they just needed the means to run it on their existing hardware. Foundation x86 was the answer. 

It takes deep knowledge of Android to commercially support x86 on behalf of vertical market customers, but rest assured, we have the expertise here. Our CEO was the architect of Windows CE and led the Fire OS team — that sets the bar at Esper.

Keith Szot founded and led the tiger team at Microsoft that drove Windows CE into its initial vertical markets of Industrial Automation and Retail Point of Sale. Today, he is helping all types of customers to apply Android on purpose-built device fleets with Esper’s full-stack platform.

While you can certainly use Android on x86, taking advantage of the x86 hardware requires the right implementation from the right team. So if you are stuck with your Windows-based x86 purpose-built device fleet installed base, Esper can help you transition to Android by leveraging your existing hardware assets and smartly adding native ARM-based Android devices to your fleet. To talk to us, get in touch.

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