Microsoft Simplifies Home Computing with Windows Rally Technologies

LOS ANGELES, May 15, 2007 – Microsoft doesn’t just want people to live a digital lifestyle. The software company wants them to embrace it.

That can be difficult for people who feel bombarded by the amount of digital information they’ve amassed and the number of devices they use to create, share and store it. Windows Rally technologies seek to help users get the most from their Windows Vista-based PCs and the new wave of innovation occurring on connected devices.

Windows Rally technologies aim to make device connectivity simple, robust and more secure. Networking devices that carry the Certified for Windows Vista logo, Windows Vista-based PCs, and Xbox 360s all use Windows Rally technologies. The Certified for Windows Vista logo ensures the software or devices are tested for Windows Vista security, reliability and compatibility standards, as well as ease of installation and uninstallation. Certified for Windows Vista components and devices undergo testing that will be validated by Microsoft’s Windows Hardware Quality Lab. Microsoft expects the program to improve customer experiences by providing a uniform minimum quality bar for all certified products.

Windows Rally technologies aim to give users great end-to-end experiences for every element of their interaction with a device. This is accomplished by providing standard, baseline mechanisms for device discovery, configuration, management and network quality. The individual protocols and the experiences they are designed to enable are:

  • Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), a layer 2 protocol that operates over Ethernet. Any device that implements LLTD will appear on the Windows Vista Network Map with an icon representing the device, allowing users one-click access to the device’s Web User Interface.

  • Windows Connect Now (WCN), Microsoft’s implementation of the WiFi Alliance’s WiFi Protected Setup, which provides a simple, secure wireless setup experience for Wi-Fi enabled devices.

  • Devices Profile for Web Services (DPWS), which enables rich, secure programmatic control of devices, and easy discovery of device capabilities.

  • Plug and Play Extensions (PnPX), which enable the same plug-and-play experience users are familiar with for devices that connect via buses, such as USB. By extending this model to network-connected devices, users get the same rapid discovery and simple “ready to use” experience.

“Our goal is to help consumers have the most positive home computing experience possible so they can concentrate on more important issues than device connectivity,” says Jim Barber, senior program manager for Windows Rally at Microsoft. “As we develop new device classes for Windows Vista and for future generations of Windows, partners will continue to benefit from their investments in Windows Rally technologies and provide better service to their customers.”

Windows Rally is designed to enable hardware and software developers to focus development resources on product differentiation rather than connectivity fundamentals. Since the Windows Rally technologies were introduced last year, more than 1,100 copies of the Windows Rally Porting Kit, a key device enabler, have been downloaded from www.microsoft.com/rally. Currently, there are 20 devices using Windows Rally technologies that have earned the Windows Vista logo, with many more currently under development.

Windows Rally technologies combined with partner innovation offer the potential to greatly simplify the lives of consumer lives. Two examples of this potential are in the market today. One is the High Definition Media Bridge platform from Ubicom, a provider of communications processor and software designed to bridge the networking gap between high definition video on the PC to digital media players, such as an Xbox360 connected to a HDTV solutions. Another is the Xtreme N Duo MediaBridge from D-Link Systems, an end-to-end networking solutions provider.

“The growing need for bandwidth and quality of service on the home network creates an opportunity for high-quality, performance-oriented solutions,” says Keith Morris, vice president of marketing at Ubicom. “We’re pleased to partner with Microsoft and harness Windows Rally technologies to present the High Definition Media Bridge. The design combines the ease of use and performance requirements of Windows Rally with Ubicom’s StreamEngine technology to identify and prioritize high bandwidth, time-sensitive video traffic over a wireless home network. The High Definition Media Bridge solves the problem of how to easily extend a high performance home network to the ‘Entertainment Island’ in the center of the living room.”

The D-Link Xtreme N Duo MediaBridge seeks to enable users to add 5GHz Draft 802.11n capabilities to any existing router. Wi-Fi devices implementing 802.11n and operating at 5GHz make it possible to stream high-definition multimedia content from PCs to home entertainment centers throughout the home without interference or congestion from legacy (2.4GHz) networks.

“When it comes to delivering superior wireless performance, clarity and coverage, the Xtreme N Duo MediaBridge is the ideal centerpiece for the home wireless network,” says Brian Larsen, associate vice president of product development for D-Link Systems. “It’s easy to install, add or upgrade to any home network. It provides the best wireless technology available for viewing HD video. We are thrilled that our collaboration with Microsoft has given consumers another product made possible by Windows Vista and all the technologies and features the operating system encompasses.”

Within Microsoft, similar sentiments are brewing over the types of solutions Windows Rally technology enables.

“Microsoft Media Center Extenders, such as the Xbox 360, allow users to access media from their PC in exciting new ways,” says Glenn Ward, group partner manager for Windows Rally. “Ubicom’s High Definition Media Bridge platform enables a great end-to-end experience far beyond what traditional networking products are capable of. Whether they’re used for streaming video from a PC, or for connecting to games and services available from Xbox Live, Ubicom’s implementation meets a high quality bar for quality of service, easy setup, and robust networking that’s perfect for the exciting applications Microsoft is enabling for the connected home.”

The technologies themselves make up only part of the overall Windows Rally program. The Windows Rally program provides access to the specific technologies as well as streamlined licensing and technical guidance for hardware manufacturers, software developers and service providers who want to use a common platform for connectivity products and services for customers.

Microsoft says device manufacturers that participate in the Windows Rally program and adopt Windows Rally technologies should be able to provide their customers with benefits such as: effortless set up experiences and fewer product returns, greater product differentiation and lower support costs.

As technology revolutionizes how consumers gather, manage and share information, listen to music, watch TV and communicate in general, Microsoft is continuing to innovate to provide more engaging, better connected experiences befitting a quality digital lifestyle.