WinHEC is the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, and while Longhorn, Microsofts next version of Windows, remains the big topic, this is a hardware show—and one of the few times we get to look at what is coming in hardware. And it appears we are about to see a major change.
The hardware vendors have been increasingly concerned that they arent developing customer loyalty, particularly at the device level. Even with Hewlett-Packard and printers, where the loyalty appears greater than anywhere else, there was a wake-up call when Dell was able to shift the folks it sold to over to Dell-branded products.
To add insult to injury, HP doesnt perceive Lexmark, which builds for Dell, to be even in the same ballpark with regard to industrial design and features.
As a result, WinHEC is showcasing a renewed interest in Web services targeted at hardware, and Microsoft is making the fix part of its core messaging for WinHEC. What the related initiatives promise are a much better user experience and a greater amount of customer loyalty than the market has enjoyed before—and perhaps a new realization by the device makers that the Internet can play a more active role in creating a community of advocates for them.
The goal is to connect every device, whether it is networked or PC-attached, to a set of services that will seamlessly provide driver updates, firmware patches and connectivity to those who need to use them. This means that users, and administrators, would simply have to plug in the device. With the services enabled, it would basically take care of itself.
It would announce its presence and local users would immediately gain access; shared devices would be much simpler to enable; and should a patch be needed, it would automatically be applied based on default policies or on those set by the IT administrator using a centralized tool set.