Last night, Microsoft released a "preview Windows image"—which I take to be a new version of the as-yet-unbranded "Windows for the Internet of Things" (Windows IoT)—aimed at a popular, off-the-shelf Intel x86 system-on-a-chip (SoC) development board. The effort is basically a proof of concept showing that the big boys—Microsoft and Intel in this case—can create miniature versions of their mainstream computing solutions aimed at a coming generation of ever-connected devices of all kinds.

There's a lot of terminology to get through here. But the high-level version is that this is a fairly esoteric topic, for now, that applies only to developers. That said, the end game here is to move Windows—and, more specifically, Windows on Intel's chipsets—to the Internet of Things and that coming vast web of ever-connected devices.

So here's my understanding of what's happening. (I assume I'm getting a few details wrong.)

Back in April at Build, Microsoft announced its intention to create something that many (myself included) to be called "Windows for the Internet of Things." In fact, Microsoft has not yet decided on a name for this coming product; instead, it will be some version of Windows that is targeting devices that will participate in the Internet of Things. It will be made available for free.

Then, about a month ago, Microsoft released the first SDK for Windows IoT. That release curiously supported only the C++ programming language and a subset of the Win32 APIs that developers used to use oh those many years ago to create Windows applications. But it also required a special version of an Intel Galileo development board—which Microsoft provided at Build and online—in order to Windows IoT apps. (There is/was no software emulator.) And that limited the appeal of this release, since only a handful of developers had the boards.

With this week's update, "a new preview Windows image"—which, again, I take to be a second pre-release version of Windows IoT that Microsoft in now trying to make less confusingly named—is available for off-the-shelf Intel Galileo boards. Likewise, a compatible new UEFI firmware version for the Galileo board is also available from Intel.

Making Windows IoT available on publicly-sold Galileo boards should help open up this preview to more developers. However, it's worth noting that Intel has already moved on to the second generation (Gen 2) Galileo board, and that this new preview only supports Intel Galileo Gen 1 boards. So I'm guessing that this will be a bigger deal for those who already have a Gen 1 board, which was popular with device-focused developers. But Microsoft does say it will also support Gen 2 hardware with a future release.

"The preview Windows image is another opportunity for makers and developers to create, generate new ideas and provide feedback to help Microsoft continue making Windows even better on this class of device," a Microsoft representative told me.

So. If you are interested in Windows IoT and wish to jump right in at this early stage, you'll need the following:

A Windows IoT developer program membership. Sign-up for the free Windows IoT developer program.

Visual Studio. The free Visual Studio Express for Windows Desktop works fine.

Intel Galileo Gen 1 board. I'm not sure if these are being sold anywhere but they were before the Gen 2 versions became available. I assume they're out there somewhere.

Windows IoT SDK and Windows preview image. You can get these from the Windows Developer Program for IoT web site.

Intel Galileo UEFI firmware 1.0.2. You can get this from Intel.

I expect to see baby nano-robots running around by the end of the year, people. Get busy.