Wednesday 3 September 2008

Microsoft .NET Micro Framework Licensing

The Microsoft .NET Micro Framework (.NET MF) is licensed differently according to the volume you will be selling. There are three basic scenarios:

Pre-licensed Modules
Several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have ported the .NET MF to a 'module' which can be bought prepackaged with a number of connectivity and peripheral options. When you buy a module from an OEM, the license fee has already been paid to Microsoft, and there are no licensing fees for you to consider. Just buy the module, include it in your design and you're done.

An example of a pre-licensed module is the Digi Connect ME (DC-ME-01T-MF), which can be bought for approx. USD $50, and includes the .NET MF license. For a full list of available pre-licensed modules, see the comparison chart on

Discrete Custom Designs for Existing Ports
If you are building a device for mass distribution, a prepackaged module from an OEM may not exactly meet your connectivity, peripheral or pricing requirements. In this case you can use one of the processors that an OEM has already ported to the .NET MF in your design. If you choose this approach, you first contact Microsoft at and send them information about your company, project, and potential volume. They will put you in contact with processor manufacturers from whom you can buy a CPU at volume, and then Microsoft will agree a per-unit license fee for the .NET MF in your particular case. For example, in a high-volume device project you may create a discrete design around an ARM processor supported in the porting kit or using a public board support package (BSP).  You could buy processors from Arrow, Digi-Key or some other distributor, and since those processors could be used with any platform, they won't have the license built in.

New Platform Port
If you have a processor architecture which the .NET MF has not yet been ported to and you want to use the .NET MF on this platform, you can sign a 'porting agreement' with Microsoft. The porting process involves working closely with Microsoft developers to incorporate your platform into the .NET MF. Processor and microcontroller manufacturers such as ARM and NXP have been through this process, sometimes directly and sometimes through specialists in porting new architectures to the .NET MF such as Adeneo. OEMs such as Digi use these processors and microcontrollers as part of the design of their prepackaged modules. To create such an agreement contact Microsoft at A Microsoft technical white paper for device manufacturers about porting the .NET MF to a new hardware platform can be found here: PDF or HTML.

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