First announced with the release of Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 the SPARK initiative is designed to provide a source of cheap Windows CE development tools to hobbyists and other non commercial users such as academics.
As Mike Hall mentions in a recent blog entry the first development boards packages under this initiative are finally starting to become available. This announcement neatly dove tails into yesterday’s discussions about low cost development tools for Windows Mobile. In Mike Hall’s own words:
Windows CE has traditionally focused on professional embedded developers, sure we’ve had the evaluation kits for developers to try out the development tools and operating system, but these time out after 180 days, which is ok for commercial developers to make a decision about moving forward with a Windows CE based project but isn’t ideal for the community/academic/hobbyist developer.
The Spark Your Imagination program offers non-commercial developers low cost development boards (both X86 and ARM based options available) combined with fully licensed copies of Visual Studio 2005, and the latest release of Windows CE (i.e. Platform Builder) for essentially the cost of the hardware.
More details, including links to the available hardware options, can be found on the Spark Your Imagination website.