Past year on October 10, at the Maker Faire 2010 New York, the .NET Micro Framework team and Microsoft Research (Cambridge) showed off their new device called the ".NET Gadgeteer" -- it's like LEGO for electronics. Now, almost a year later, Microsoft begin offering ".Net Gadgeteer" software development platform for home-built gadgets.
".Net Gadgeteer utilizes the .Net Micro Framework to make writing code for your device as easy as writing a desktop, Web or Windows Phone application," Microsoft's newly launched Web site for the software explained.
"Even someone with little or no electronics background can build devices made up of components like sensors, lights, switches, displays, communications, motor controllers, and much more. Just pick your components, plug them into a mainboard and program the way they work together."
Gadgeteer provides a platform for writing software to control simple home-built electronic devices, made from Gadgeteer-compatible components.
Starting with a mainboard with an embedded processor, developers can assemble a device by adding sensors, displays, cameras, lights, switches, motor controllers and other components. Gadgeteer components will all have the same type of connector, eliminating the need for the soldering.
Developers can then write their code to run their creations in Visual Studio, using C# and the Gadgeteer plug-in software. Through Visual Studio's Intellisense feature, Gadgeteer adds a set of prompts that can help developers complete their code. The resulting control program can then be downloaded to the device by way of a USB connection to the mainboard.
CodePlex hosts the Gadgeteer source and binary code, as well as documentation specifying the hardware interfaces between the mainboard and the components.
GHI Electronics offers a starter kit of electronic components that is compatible with Gadgeteer, which costs about US$250. Microsoft expects other electronic manufacturers to start vending Gadgeteer compatible components as well.
Microsoft faces some competition in providing software for the home build-it-yourself gadget market however. Arduino has long offered an open source electronics prototyping platform.
More Info: .NET Gadgeteer