We speak to Software Director Nick Donaldson…

Signs of life: Avnet Embedded on growing digital signage market and end of XP support

Avnet Embedded’s digital signage offering is growing strong, and it has seen the market for embedded software boom over the past decade.

But in just over one month, Windows XP support for devices such as POS tills, chip and PIN terminals, ATMs and more will cease. Software Director Nick Donaldson tells Dominic Sacco what this means for businesses…

The global digital signage systems market is on the rise.

More retailers are adopting high-tech signage systems, and a study by Global Industry Analysts estimates the market will reach $13.8 billion by 2017, with signage technology falling in price.

Nick Donaldson, Director of Software at Avnet Embedded, which delivers embedded hardware and software solutions to OEMS, is seeing growth in that sector: “We’ve got a decent sized signage practice with very notable customers. We’ve got our own product now, which has allowed us to create a Windows Embedded based, NUC-based or open-source based product for the signage world. And that seems to be growing quite rapidly.”

Donaldson leads the team driving the Microsoft Embedded franchise in EMEA for Avnet Embedded, the solutions-focused arm of $28 billion components and electronics distributor Avnet. 

“The [embedded] market is pretty healthy,” he says. “I started doing this over nine years ago, and my business is now 10 to 12 times bigger than it was then.”

However, something in the near future threatens to throw embedded systems into disarray. 


Windows XP’s ‘doomsday’ is fast approaching.

On April 8th 2014, Microsoft is pulling technical support for the operating system, including security updates. While this is a hindrance for home users, it’s arguably a much bigger problem for businesses.

Many devices and their applications currently run on XP – from POS tills to chip and PIN terminals, toll barriers, ATMs and more. This means that, come April 8th, they will no longer be compliant with PCI (Payment Card Industry) regulations and could risk fines of up to £400,000 – not to mention putting customers at risk. 

“In my mind, the migration from XP should have happened a while ago,” Donaldson comments. “I think people are expecting it to be a seamless integration, but to go from Windows XP to Windows Embedded 7 or 8 is not a simple process.”

So what can the businesses at risk do? 

They could migrate their systems over to Windows Embedded Standard (WES) 2009, which is based on the XP kernel and so is a very similar product – plus it’s going to remain supported by Microsoft for another 11 years or so and is unlikely to require hardware changes.

“Then there’s another migration path,” advises Donaldson. “They could go down the open-source route, but for people in the Microsoft world, that’s not often an option. They could go to either WES 2009 or WES 7 or 8, and we offer migration packages to go from one to the next.”

Donaldson says the costs involved in migrating systems vary, but converting a system over from XP to WES 2009 is likely to cost thousands of pounds, rather than tens of thousands. 

Microsoft has recently thrown a rope to businesses after announcing it will continue to offer anti-malware updates to XP users until July 2015.

However, Donaldson concludes: “Even with the extended support, XP users will still be at significant risk after the April cut-off.

“What’s interesting is the way in which people apparently don’t realise there are other post-XP migration options apart from Windows 7 or 8 – like embedded.”

“The opinion paper that we are completing will hopefully give some helpful guidance to get people out of the rut of thinking that XP migration is only a one or two-horse race.”

Avnet Embedded has produced several papers which you can view by clicking here.

FACT FILE: Avnet Embedded

Established: 2008
Number of employees: 100+
Email: uk@avnet-embedded.eu
Telephone: 01628 518900
Website: avnet-embedded.eu

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