.NET Micro Framework 3.0 to work with native code
June 10, 2008 —
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ORLANDO — Embedded developers who assumed that Microsoft would restrict the .NET Micro Framework to managed code are in for a surprise: Version 3.0 of the framework will in fact work with native code.
Microsoft offered a sneak peak of .NET Micro Framework 3.0 on June 6 at the Tech·Ed Developers conference. The session outlined the company’s key goals for the framework, which cover device connectivity, direct access to hardware and ease of porting.
The cusp of the release is interoperability with unmanaged code, according to Jonathan Kagle, group program manager for .NET Micro Framework.
Managed code is “admittedly not perfect” for every task, Kagle acknowledged in an interview with SD Times. In response to developer feedback, version 3.0 will permit developers to call C/C++ assembly code from C# code and to create event callbacks from native code.
“It will be easier to interoperate between applications running on a [real-time operating system] and the Microsoft framework,” Kagle said. He admitted this wasn’t going to be easy, saying, “We are juggling chainsaws—there’s a real opportunity to mess things up.” He then tempered his statement, saying that over 90% of code will likely remain managed code written in C#.
He noted several use cases where native code may be preferable, especially ones with CPU-intensive processing such as audio encoding and cryptography, as well as the creation of libraries with processor-specific functionality.
Direct hardware access enables new interfaces such as 1-Wire, a device communications bus system (designed by Dallas Semiconductor), analog and digital converters, and other on-chip peripherals, according to PowerPoint slides from Kagle’s Tech·Ed presentation about the framework.
Devices developed using the framework can be configured to act as a USB peripheral device. One such application that Kagle described was a human input device for the disabled, using switches and sensors to simulate keystrokes and mouse movements; Windows would treat the device exactly like a keyboard.
Other planned connectivity features for the .NET Micro 3.0 release include WiFi support based on the framework’s existing TCP/IP stack, with SSL added to the stack. Microsoft also intends to include hardware and software “fly-by-wire” control that follows the .NET Framework serial object model.