SEATTLE—Microsoft Corp. officials are giving attendees at the annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here this week more bang for their buck by increasing the number of business planning and strategy sessions to 40 hours of content, while still providing a range of deeply technical sessions.
Microsoft executives Jim Allchin, the group vice president of platforms, and Bill Gates, the companys chief software architect, also will use their keynote addresses Tuesday to announce a device profile for Web services and to tell the audience that Microsoft will publish a specification for the device profile itself and propose this to the Universal Plug and Play Forum for consideration in the UPnP 2.0 specification.
Attendees also can expect to receive a Longhorn build, but this will not be an alpha version of the product but rather an update of the developer preview of the software that was handed out at last Octobers Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
The Windows 64-bit client for extended systems, when released in the last quarter of this year, also will have near feature-parity with Windows XP Professional.
That 64-bit Windows release will include support for Visual Studio .Net and the .Net Framework, Version 1.1, Greg Sullivan, the lead product manager for Windows at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash., told eWEEK in an interview ahead of the conference.
“We are also going to be handing out those bits at WinHEC of the 64-bit extended systems SKU that have those attributes, so you will be able to download the .Net Framework and run it and .Net Framework applications,” Sullivan said. “It also has all the important XP Pro features like system restore and Windows Messenger and Visual Studio .Net support.”
Microsoft had also listened to feedback about the show. “Attendees told us they wanted the content to be even more technical but, at the same time, they also wanted more strategy and planning sessions. So, we are doing both this year and have added a whole track on business planning and strategy.”
Allchin and Gates both will be using their Tuesday keynotes to hammer home the notion that the innovations happening in Windows and in the hardware need to be looked at together so products can be jointly developed that will meet real customer needs and deliver an experience that is meaningful and creates value.
“And if we can do that, that in itself creates opportunities for all of us,” Sullivan said. “If we can design products together that build on the innovation that we have in both software and hardware, and really create valuable experiences, as an industry well sell more of them, well make money, be more successful and our customers will be happier.”
In his keynote, Allchin will talk about an experienced-based economy and predictions for the future, as well as some specific, prescriptive guidance on what Microsoft and its hardware partners need to do together to deliver those kinds of products.
Allchin will provide guidance on the creation of the PC-in-the-living-room experience, which would be able to turn on and off instantly, would be quiet, would not consume a lot of power, and would wake up to record shows and then be able to go back to a state of low power or no power.
It also would seamlessly interact with users, employing biometrics to populate their favorites and personalize their experiences.
“These are the kinds of things Jim [Allchin] will be demon-strating during his keynote, and if we want to deliver those kinds of experiences, there are some imperatives needed from a hardware and software standpoint, like we need to make the machines quieter than 26 decibels,” Sullivan said.
“Jim will detail how we can jointly do that and how we can take advantage of microprocessor speed states and throttle back, so we can turn the fan off or build a device that doesnt have a fan and is fully air-cooled. He will talk about advanced power management and how this can be used to get a PC to a fully awake state within one-and-a-half seconds or less,” Sullivan said.
Allchin also will make some specific announcements, including a device profile for Web services and the fact that Microsoft will publish a specification for the device profile itself and propose this to the Universal Plug and Play Forum for consideration in the UPnP 2.0 specification.
“This will be based on the Web services standards work we have been doing for a while, and we will use these Web services for the devices profile and deliver along with it a device development kit so that manufacturers of anything with a microprocessor and some degree of connectivity can build intelligence into that device,” Sullivan said. That way, “it can interact with other devices on the network and can consume services that are published by others, and even publish services itself,” Sullivan said.
An example would be a music device in the audiovisual stack in a living room. It could send music to any device in the house capable of playing music, and they could interact with one another. But this required a protocol stack and a specification before it could happen, he said.
Allchin also will use USB Flash drives to show how hardware and software can come together to deliver a great experience that simplifies things for the user. Using a Windows XP SP2 PC, which has new functionality and a wizard built into it, Allchin will plug in a USB Flash drive, run the wizard to configure his wireless network and store the 128-bit WEP configuration on that USB Flash device.
He then will show how he can walk around and plug the USB Flash device into all of the wirelessly connected things on the LAN, and the 128-bit WEP is automatically configured on those.
“This shows how we are thinking about how to combine innovative software and hardware to solve user problems like securing wireless LANs in as easy a manner as possible,” Sullivan said. “This is an example of how hardware and software can come together to create a valuable user experience that they are prepared to pay for and which adds value.”
Allchin will demonstrate some of the features and functionality of Longhorn, the next version of Windows currently under development, including new uses of power management and how machines can wake up almost immediately.
He will show two PCs running side by side, both running Longhorn but one with the XP graphics driver stack and the other with the new Longhorn graphics driver model.
After loading a game and some other 3-D components, attendees will see that the PC running the XP graphics driver stack is able to support only one instance of a 3-D application, whereas with the PC running the Longhorn graphics driver model, the system itself is now able to take advantage of the 3-D hardware acceleration and is able to robustly support multiple 3-D applications running simultaneously.
Allchin also will clarify broadly the roadmap for the Longhorn client and reiterate that the first beta is on schedule for the first half of 2005 and that the final product will ship when its ready after that, Sullivan said, adding that he is unsure whether the Longhorn server team would detail its roadmap going forward at the show.
Windows XP SP2 on
Windows XP SP2 is also on track to ship this summer, Sullivan said. While Microsoft had said it would ship XP SP2 by the end of June, that has slipped “by a few weeks and [it] will certainly be released in the third quarter of this year,” Sullivan said, adding that Microsoft is preparing Release Candidate 2 for the service pack, which will be distributed in the next few weeks.
“Who knows what feedback well get from that, which could impact it again, but the release date could also be moved forward,” he said.
WinHEC attendees also can expect to receive a Longhorn build, but this will not be an alpha version of the product but rather an update of the developer preview of the software that was handed out at last falls Professional Developers Conference.
“This update of that Longhorn developer preview is focused on hardware vendors and the driver development kit, the LDK. This is all prebeta code, and the developers should not compare the bits we hand out here to the ones we handed out at PDC, as this is about the LDK for the hardware community, and there are components that will actually be rolled back because we have made progress. We want drivers and we want 64-bit drivers.
“In the Longhorn timeframe, it is not unreasonable to assume that a 64-bit machine is the mainstream shipping PC and so we should all be building 64-bit drivers and we should be building native Longhorn drivers,” he said.
Gates will talk about seamless computing when he takes the stage Tuesday. He will relate that to the hardware audience by talking about imperatives for both hardware and software. His talk will center on three main areas, starting with connected systems and some of the networking advances that have been made that will enable new scenarios.
He plans to talk about the notion of being information-driven, with the hardware trends of storage capacity outpacing Moores Law and the trend of file system and data retrieval and things such as WinFS really driving the software component of the storage model forward to enable a “whole new level of information-driven scenarios that, combined with connected systems and Web services and advanced hardware networking, will really get us to this notion of seamless computing,” Sullivan said.
“The third pivot is around really rich and consistent user interface that gets the things the user wants done with a minimal involvement by him,” he added.
Gates will do some demonstrations around the 64-bit desktop and will talk about how 64-bit computing is ready for prime time on the desktop. He will announce near feature-parity with Windows XP Professional in the 64-bit client for extended systems, “AMD and whatever Intel does in that space,” which will ship in the last quarter of this year, Sullivan said.
Gates also will announce that this 64-bit Windows release will include support for Visual Studio .Net, so users are given the tools that allow the development and deployment of 64-bit applications, as well as support for the .Net Framework, Version 1.1.
Gates plans to show the next step in Microsofts vision for the “Concept PC,” which took the Athens concept PC shown last year even further. He will show how technologies within Athens are shipping in products today—features such as high-DPI display, computer-telephony integration, voice over IP (VOIP) and biometric authentication.
This year, Gates will show the Windows Home Concept, expected in the 2006 to 2008 timeframe, which is an evolution of the Media Center PC. The demo from the prototype Microsoft has built is based on the “Symphony” bits.
“Apart from the industrial design and the integration of things like cable modem and HDTV tuners, VOIP gateway integration, its quiet and doesnt generate a lot of heat,” Sullivan said. “We are putting this up as the poster child and saying, This is what were talking about when we say combine hardware and software innovation to create a great experience.”
While some of this functionality is present in our soon-to-be-available Media Center PCs, Gates will demo gadgets such as a remote control with biometric authentication, so it knows the users favorites, as well as a built-in auxiliary display and microphone.
If the user were to receive a phone call while watching television, a notification would pop up and the live TV would be paused as the call is answered and broadcast on the surround-sound speakers. The system also would recognize the phone number as it connects with Outlook and would make available any e-mails from the caller, Sullivan said.