Update: Gates To Unify Windows Around Mouse Wheel

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates is expected to show off on Tuesday a method to unify the Windows "look and feel" on several platforms, based upon the humble mouse wheel.

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates on Tuesday showed off a method to unify the Windows experience on several platforms, as part of making IT simpler and easier to use.

In his keynote address here at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, Gates also introduced off "Athens", a prototype PC based on the Agora PC prototype, showed off the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, introduced the concept of the "dynamic data center", and presented a cut-rate deal on Windows CE .Net.

As he has done with previous WinHEC presentations, Gates offered a "report card" on how various attributes of the PC have fared over the past year. The economy and how applications leverage the hardware generated failing grades, Gates said. However, Gates said the robustness of the PC platform, including the way in which the software giant can accumulate data on software crashes to help hardware makers improve their driver software, had held their own. Successes included the widespread adoption of Windows XP, and the price/performance combinations that PC makers had achieved.

"The PC platform – theres no way that anyone can say that the PC isnt the highest-performance platform of any out there," Gates said.

"Breakthroughs" included the digital camera and WiFi wireless, although new ways to tie the two together are needed, Gates said. In addition, Gates said he looked forward to quality-of-service improvements that are due out near the end of the year through the 802.11i standard.

Microsofts announcements were set against the backdrop of a dynamically changing Windows landscape, based on a number of new hardware introductions. Microsofts new uniform navigation interface, however, will add to the revised look and feel of the Windows platform, one which will already receive several revisions with the introduction of the Longhorn OS.

Microsofts new navigation scheme, called "XEEL," will be based upon the "mouse wheel" interface designed into the latest generation of computer mice. The XEEL interface will simplify and provide consistency to Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs, Windows Powered Smart Phones, Windows Powered Smart Displays and everyday objects based on Microsofts Smart Personal Objects Technology, according to Microsoft. Hardware designers will also be encouraged to adopt XEEL, simplifying the design but giving them one less means to differentiate them.