NEW ORLEANS—The current Windows interface does not take advantage of todays advanced graphics capabilities, so the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, is being designed to do so, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates told the several hundred attendees of his keynote at the here.
Detailing what he saw as key Microsoft advances over the past year, Gates cited in his WinHEC keynote address, titled “New Frontiers for Hardware and Software,” the advances in the companys Trustworthy Computing initiative, noting that last months release of was the first major product release since Microsoft started that initiative.
He also cited advances in interoperability and robustness. “We have seen the fastest transition to Windows XP than to any other operating system we have shipped, largely because of its richness and robustness. The uninstalled base of Windows 9x has dropped dramatically as people upgrade to and test Windows XP,” he said.
Breakthroughs over the past year included Wi-Fi; cameras and printers; LCD screen sizes, which grew as prices fell; and Web services, the foundation for interoperability. Meanwhile, the tools that made this possible grew at breakneck speed, as did 64-bit support.
“This is a computing environment where the devices all have to work together,” Gates said. “The transition across devices needs to be simple. As we get new hardware we need to drive new software and turn this into a new user experience. Take the relationship between the PC and the phone, where integration between the two is critical and is influencing PC hardware.”
Looking ahead, the rapid growth in hardware capacity will continue, as will the “phenomenal” increase in graphics processing, he said. “We understand parallelism in the graphics realm far better than in the general-purpose code execution world,” he said.
Fundamentally, the trajectory for the next four to five years is solid, enabling things like speech and ink to advance, as well as improved search capabilities, Gates said. Gates talked about a new scroll wheel and set of buttons, known as XEEL, for navigating Windows-powered devices with one hand. Microsoft designed the controls for hardware makers to add to phones, computers and Tablet PCs.
Gates also showed a lighthearted video that chronicled the history of the computer from the Altair and that included cameo appearances from singer Puff Daddy, former President Bill Clinton, and businessman and investor Warren Buffet.
The relationship between the PC and the phone is one of the areas where Microsoft expects big changes to take place. Advances need to include the accommodation of data, voice and video, as well as real-time communications (RTC).
“You will see a lot of enhancements around RTC in Windows. We have also put together an Advanced Prototype PC, code-named Athens, with Hewlett-Packard,” he said. The Athens PC has a built-in telephone linked to Microsofts productivity applications.
Chad Magendanz, lead program manager for the hardware innovation group, said HP and Microsoft have been refining Athens to exercise hardware and software integration. “Our broader goal is to work with a wide variety of telephony and communications devices.
“The goal here is to have a consistent user experience and a consistent set of interfaces that make it simple and consistent for the user,” he said.
Using the system to listen to music, a user can take a call on a PC-enabled speakerphone, which immediately mutes the music and indicates presence—that the user is on the phone. An information page can then be displayed, pulling from Outlook all the callers contact details as well as information on previous notes and meetings.
Users can also enable a “do not disturb” function that automatically sends incoming calls to voice mail, while still being able to screen those calls and see the callers details. Replies can be sent back to the caller through the PC. “Weve integrated telephony and have added value to your calls using the PC, turning it into one collaborative experience,” Magendanz said.
Gates also stressed Microsofts commitment to tools development, talking about how his company is building big advances into its tools like the .Net Compact Framework. Microsoft also has a road map for integrated lifecycle tools, including profiling, model checking, defect detection, and test prioritization and automation, he said.
Changes Afoot in Data
Things will also be changing in the data center. Windows Server 2003 has brought built-in provisioning across the network in an automated process, which is a major advance and forms part of Microsofts Dynamic Systems Initiative.
The initiative was designed to ensure that the quality of applications running would be better, while the costs of managing this would be lower. Microsoft is working with its partners to make this possible, Gates said, demonstrating a dynamic data center built by HP.
Turning to 64-bit advances, Gates called on Dave Ciuba, a senior product manager for the Windows client, to demonstrate how easily a 64-bit Windows system running on an HP Itanium 2 system can navigate an aerial view of the Los Angeles area that is larger than 10GB.
Jack Films, the production firm of “Star Wars” producer George Lucas, uses 64-bit Windows running on AMD Opteron systems to cut rendering time and costs, he said, adding that Microsoft is working hard to make Windows the premier platform for creating and viewing digital content.
Gates, turning to the issue of performance, said that while the PC architecture has held the lead in price/performance for a long time, in terms of absolute performance the record is not as good. Earlier this month at the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft announced some new benchmarks.
“Were dying to have people using Linux or Oracle come in and challenge these performance results,” he said. Windows Server 2003, now the No. 1 performing server operating system, offers increased IT efficiency by as much as 30 percent, enhances information worker productivity and is the highest quality Microsoft server ever released, Gates said.
A new capability and architecture, known as Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, will be included in all systems going forward and is a breakthrough that will allow PCs to be used for applications they are not used for today, he said.
Work around this is taking place on the processor, keyboard and the Windows operating system itself, which will be reflected in the Longhorn release.
“The PC platform is becoming mainstream in the data center, platform capabilities are enabling new scenarios, there are many opportunities for new form factors and devices, and we are working with partners to make the PC better than ever. Its going to be exciting to tackle these new frontiers together,” Gates concluded.
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