Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stressed in the announcement that Microsoft will license these new Azure Sphere chips for free, in hopes to jump-start the Azure Sphere ecosystem.
Because it's hard to secure a device you can't update or get telemetry from, these devices will feature built-in connectivity. And with that connectivity, these devices can also connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud.
It is the first time that Vole has launched a custom Linux kernel and distribution. It's an update to the real-time operating systems that today's MCUs often use.
In a statement Microsoft said it used Linux to address an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU.
Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security, said that Windows IoT runs on microprocessor units (MPUs) which have at least 100x the power of the MCU. The Microsoft-secured Linux kernel used in the Azure Sphere IoT OS is shared under an OSS license so that silicon partners can rapidly enable new silicon innovations.
Partners are happy taking an open source release and integrating that with their products. To get the process started, MediaTek is producing the first set of these new MCUs based around low-powered, single-core ARM-A7 systems that run at 500MHz and include WiFi connectivity as well as a number of other I/O options.
It has the advantage that it can be a secure as part of a turnkey, cloud service that guards every Azure Sphere device using certificate-based authentication, detecting emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates.