Microsoft has announced the .NET Gadgeteer, a small, Arduiono-like toolkit that allows hackers to build unique hardware and software solutions using a set of pre-assembled parts.
The kid includes a framework for hardware programming that works with Microsoft’s own Visual Studio. For example, you can add camera widgets, heat sensors, and screens to your software project, program it from a PC, and then use the resulting device in research and experimentation applications.
The platform is ostensibly open and any hardware manufacturer can design hardware for the framework. For example, you can buy a starter kit from GHI Electronics for $249.95 at the end of September. It includes a camera module, a USB host, a little screen, and a few other devices including an SD Card reader.
You can get started by download the software here.
With Arduino controlling the mind-share in rapid electronics prototyping, it makes sense for Microsoft to get into this space. I’d say the main concern for most folks looking for a device framework is compatibility with existing systems and Windows and Visual Studio makes sense for most commercial entities.