Gates: 64-Bit Transition Will Happen Rapidly

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-25

Gates: 64-Bit Transition Will Happen Rapidly

SEATTLE—Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates on Monday laid to rest talk that Microsoft might be scaling back its commitment to the Tablet PC, saying there will be a major new version of the Tablet operating system in the Longhorn timeframe.

In his opening keynote address here at WinHEC (the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) before several thousand attendees, Gates also reiterated Microsofts call for developers to start building 64-bit device drivers to meet the burgeoning user demand for them.

Click here to read how the current state of 64-bit driver support is a mixed bag."

Gates also demonstrated several new prototypes of the Tablet hardware, including one in which the screen slides up and down off the keyboard.

Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. are backing the idea of an auxiliary display and are working with OEM Acer around this. The companies aim to let users get information such as the time, their e-mail and their meeting details on a small, auxiliary display that does not power up the actual computer.

Microsoft also is looking at an ultra-thin Tablet, in the $800 price range, currently known as the Ultra Mobile 2007. This would weight about a pound and would have an all-day battery life.

"We do believe this is achievable," Gates said, adding that the device would be "a camera, a phone, a music device that will be complementary to the PC."

"I dont expect it to replace the PC, but rather be an addition to that. The hottest device will be this ultra-mobile PC, and we are hard at work on that with our partners," he said.

Gates said the edge of the network has always played an important role in digital computing, and that enabling all devices and software to talk to one another at the edge is essential going forward. That scenario has been at the heart of Microsofts .Net vision, he said.

"We need to build more experiences that leverage what the edge is best at: telephony, voice, ink and peer-to-peer, which we will see built in at the platform level in Longhorn, the next version of Windows, for the first time," he said.

Click here to read about why Microsoft exec Jim Allchin says Longhorn is much more than just another service pack.

"We have the driver model ready for you, and that is locked down and ready to go. We are giving you the opportunity to work with us in partnership on that. Longhorn is very broad; what we are doing there is very broad and is truly the next-generation platform from us," Gates said.

In a Longhorn demonstration, Arvin Mishra, a Windows product manager, showed how Longhorn will go beyond search, helping users organize content the way they would in their heads. He also talked about a new, fixed document format, Metro, which he said will be "available free to the world."

"These documents can be created on any platform and shared to the world," Mishra said, adding that any Metro-compatible printer will gain a new and enhanced printing experience.

Next Page: The Transition to 64-Bit Computing

The Transition to 64

-Bit Computing">

Gates also used his keynote to look at the past two decades of computing, starting in 1980 with Xenix and MS DOS 1.0, and then Windows 1.01 released in 1985, followed by Windows 3.0 and 3.1 in the early 90s. The release of Windows 95 in 1995 took Windows mainstream, he said, adding that the 12 years from 1980 to 1992 encapsulated the era of 16-bit computing, while 1992 through 2005 made up the era of 32-bit computing.

The next decade, Gates said, will revolve around 64-bit computing. "This is the decade of pervasiveness, of business, entertainment and scheduling being done in a digital way in the 64-bit space, with the software runtimes that allow any piece of software to connect across the Web," he said. "This is the decade of greatest opportunity and greatest competition.

"The 64-bit generation moved the bar higher and brought performance benefits, large memory support, an enhanced layer of hardware protection, especially the no-execute bit, which defeats a large class of exploits," Gates told the audience.

Users also can run 32-bit and 64-bit applications simultaneously without any slowdown, but the device drivers for 64-bit computing must be 64-bit drivers and the developers need to write them, he said, making this point repeatedly during his 90-minute address.

"We are going to see the adoption of 64-bit computing happen quite rapidly, especially on the server side. We started piloting this, but the performance improvements with Windows Terminal Server, at 2.7 times, drove enthusiasm and adoption of this far more rapidly than we anticipated," Gates said.

Analysts say the midmarket may be slower to make 64-bit moves than Microsoft expects. Click here to read more.

Jay Kenny, a product manager in the Windows group, demonstrated NewTek LightWave 3D, which has been used to create computer animation for Hollywood, showing how Windows 64-bit computing is making this easier. "NewTek is leading this charge, including animation in movies like The Aviator, and it has already fully ported to 64 bit natively," he said.

Showing 32-bit and 64-bit development environments side by side, Kenny said the 64-bit environment was more realistic and allowed lighting, fog and animation to be added in several layers." Windows Server x64 can reduce the time of a 12-second clip significantly, allowing it to be rendered overnight rather than taking three days with 32 bit, he said.

Gates said Microsoft is proud of these releases, which also form the base on which Longhorn will be built. The 64-bit server releases support both the x86 and Itanium 64-bit architectures, he said.

Next Page: Moving 64-Bit-Support into Server Territory

Moving 64

-Bit-Support into Server Territory">

But Microsoft is extending 64 bits beyond the Windows operating system, with this years releases of SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, Commerce Server 2006, Host Integration Server 2005, Biz Talk Server 2006 and Services for Unix all moving over to 64-bit.

The 2006-07 timeframe will bring 64-bit releases of Longhorn Server, Exchange Server 12, Operation Manager, Virtual Server Version 2 and the Windows Server Compute Cluster Edition, Gates said.

Microsoft, which ate its own dog food so to speak, has already started moving to x86, with 5,000 desktops deployed at the company as well as a number of 64-bit servers running in a cluster. The software layer is doing the management, so if failover occurs, those systems can be removed over time rather than immediately, he said. runs 100 percent on Windows 64 Server, with many of its 32-bit applications running. "We have seen performance improvements even there," Gates said."

"We have the enabling bits, and we are excited about what AMD [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.] and Intel are doing, both this year and certainly moving forward to next year. Microsoft has built products for Windows x64, the entire Server System, and we expect that the majority of new server shipments in 2005 will be 64-bit, with most PCs becoming 64-bit next year.

Gates said PC shipments will rise by 10 percent this year, translating to more than 20 million units shipped over the year, and by 2008, the second billion PC will have been sold. As the global population stands at about 6 billion, Microsofts goal of putting a PC on every desk and in every home is starting to become a reality, he said.

A million Media Center Edition units have been sold since last Octobers launch, bringing sales to a total of 2 million units since its release three years ago, with some key partners now pushing out large volumes, he said.

Mishras demonstration, which showed how Longhorn will go beyond search, demonstrated not only the new search capabilities planned for Longhorn but also how data can be organized and retrieved.

His demo started with the Start menu, where the first few letters of an application could be typed in and the associated application brought up immediately and launched, he said. Users also will be able to search for a word or phrase not just across their hard drive, e-mail and PowerPoint presentations, but also over RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds and Web sites they had visited.

"There are things that we are doing in Longhorn that have not been done anywhere else. Apart from getting rid of the My in My Documents, My Pictures and all the other applications, we are moving beyond icons to give users a more comprehensive view of their data and the ability to view that information in a folder without actually having to open the folder," Mishra said.

Read more here about Microsofts current search ambitions.

Also new are virtual folders, which are like regular folders but are dynamic rather than static and instantly search across the entire hard drive, presenting the results as a flat list. These virtual folders show up on the left-hand side and can be stacked by keyword, author or other attributes, giving users a flexible view.

Gates also gave a provisional timetable for Longhorn and explained how WinHEC attendees could work with Microsoft around this. One of the ways, he said, is for PCs to be labeled Longhorn-ready, meaning that they have a modern CPU, have 512MB of RAM and are ready for the Longhorn display driver. A good opportunity exists for partner differentiation and customer satisfaction, he said.

The Windows logo program for Longhorn will be updated to include silver and gold tiers. A gold, "designed for Windows" certified logo will mean that the device or application fully exploits Longhorn demonstrably better than those that are not certified in this way. A silver logo will mean that the device or application does not fully exploit Longhorn, Gates said.

Microsoft has spent and will continue to spend the most time and effort on Longhorns security features. Under the covers of Longhorn are security and administration changes, with more limited user rights so that users who now have to run as administrators will no longer have to do so. Other new features will include secure startup and network quarantine.

Updates on the deployment front will include integrated hot-patching and easy PC migration, while in regards to reliability, the company is taking the Watson reporting tool concept even further: monitoring systems.

"Think of it as a flight data recorder, which allows us to monitor systems continuously, and having that data delivered to us and fixing it before it affects another user," Gates said.

On the performance front, the goal is to "push a button and then, boom, its there, along with smart caching so it goes out to the diskless and moving files around on the disk more smartly, as well as using nonvolatile memory more cleverly," Gates said.

While Windows has a huge breadth of device drivers and it has been challenging to keep these updated, that process is now being made more simple and effective, using the banner of "Build Right and Keep It Right."

"We think users should just be able to turn on the system and have a great experience, and thats our goal," Gates said. "Its a very exciting set of opportunities for all of us. This third decade is one of thriving growth, with new form factors, exciting new experiences and innovation, and new opportunities and possibilities around partnerships," he said.

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