Part of Microsofts driver initiative includes advances in the Plug & Play specification, first released in 1995. Jaff said the group went back to the original architects for their suggestions. Currently, there are different programming models for backplane-connected devices, mostly storage interfaces, and for protocol- and bus-connected devices, using USB, FireWire and IP networking. What is needed, Jaff said, is a common user interface, and common protocols for developers.The new direction will provide a common programming model and driver framework as well as a new common interface to all of these connections for the user.The plan will rely on a number of technologies, including PnP-X, which lets networked devices appear and function as if they were local devices; the Function Discovery API, which gives developers a way to find and use devices on a network that support the UPnP (Universal Plug & Play) protocol and WSD (Web Services for Devices). In a demonstration of the new technologies, a wireless picture frame was discovered on the network and a slideshow was served to the device from a laptop. The process employed a "Found New Hardware" wizard that found the device and loaded a driver, an authentication routine, and the WS-Discovery specification released in February. The Web Services for Devices API will be in Longhorn, according to the presentation slides shown. This particular point was underlined. Read here about how Microsoft, Sun, IBM and other vendors are cooperating on Web services messaging specs. PnP-X devices will appear to the user as locally connected devices, including in the Device Manager, and peripheral vendors will be able to install device-specific software on the users machine. Jaff said Longhorn will also see a "fixed" SSDP (Simple Service Discovery Protocol) for Universal Plug & Play devices, which has received past criticisms for performance and security. Developers were upbeat about new connectivity features, although most said they are only now just considering development of 64-bit drivers, something that was mentioned as an aside at the end of the presentation. "It was good to see them finally address the PnP issues. This has been a long time coming," said Dan Watley, product manager with ICTV Inc. of Los Gatos, Calif. The company develops HeadendWare, server-side software that lets set-top boxes support interactive rich-media. "If it works, it will be great," observed Gary Stroud, director of client systems at Gracenote LLC of Emeryville, Calif. The companys music-identification system is behind the DDB compact disc database service supported by a number of consumer products, including Apple Computer Inc.s iTunes and iPod combination. Check out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at http://windows.eweek.com for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.