NEW ORLEANS, April 25, 2000 — The Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2000, taking place this week at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, has long served as an annual forum for collaboration on hardware-related technical direction, design, standards, proposals and interoperability. Now in its ninth year, WinHEC aims to be better than ever, with twice the number of technical tracks, and more content targeted at helping hardware manufacturers, special interest groups, standards committees and Microsoft itself, improve the interoperability between hardware, the Windows platform and Microsoft technologies.
PressPass spoke with Carl Stork, general manager of Windows hardware strategy and business development at Microsoft, to learn more about Bill Gates’ vision of
“Advancing the Platform, Connecting the World”
and what hardware vendors are doing to prepare for future versions of Windows. Stork has worked for Microsoft since 1981, when he was hired as Gates’ technical assistant. For the past nine years, he has led efforts to help Microsoft foster and maintain solid working relationships with the hardware industry by communicating Microsoft initiatives and providing the services needed to be successful, and Stork ultimately influences Microsoft’s development priorities for the Windows operating system based on hardware industry needs.
PressPass: How does WinHEC influence development of PCs and other hardware for the Windows operating system family?
Stork: WinHEC gives us the opportunity to communicate future plans for Windows and other Microsoft technologies that require the support of the hardware industry, but it is much more than that. It’s a forum for the entire hardware industry to get together — not just PC makers like Compaq, Dell, and Sony, but all the companies that make the components that go into the PC and other devices, from CPU manufacturers and other chipmakers to motherboard makers, peripheral device companies and the like. It’s an effective way to share technical directions, designs, standards, and proposals, as well as address future challenges. Participants can gain a shared vision, such as the need for easy
“Plug and Play”
networking and bandwidth management, or the need for the PC architecture to address fixed-function appliances.
PressPass: Why does Microsoft extend itself to the hardware industry to the extent that it does with WinHEC?
Stork: The quality of the PC experience for users is dependent on how well the various hardware and software elements work together. Since WinHEC began nine years ago, that experience has dramatically improved because of increased communication and cooperation among the various hardware makers and Microsoft. But we also recognize that we’ve got room to improve before everything will simply work together right out of the box. Hardware vendors need to understand how software will work with their new devices, how the hardware is configured and supported by device drivers, and how application software will support them. And software vendors need to develop a solid understanding of how hardware works and what software interfaces are needed.
Microsoft’s goal is to support important new hardware standards in Windows from the start, and to be actively involved with hardware developers during the definition and early implementation of new hardware even before it is released. That way, we can deliver the ultimate user experience, in which operating system support is available when new hardware is available, and the two really work together. While WinHEC the most visible part of our efforts in this area, we also use our Web sites, newsletters, testing events, application notes, development kits and other initiatives to optimize the combination of operating system software and hardware.
PressPass: How does WinHEC figure into Bill Gates’ vision of
Advancing the Platform, Connecting the World
Stork: The breadth of the PC platform has grown dramatically, especially in the past year. It’s expanding upward to mainframe-class server platforms, as evidenced by Bill’s demonstration today of a 64-bit SQL Server running Windows 2000 on a new Intel Itanium system. And it is extending downward into some very small, portable devices and appliances, such as WebTV devices, tablet-like viewing devices, digital cameras and MSN access devices.
In the realm of the traditional PC, new features continue to advance the capabilities of the platform. DVD and digital photography, two relative newcomers, already are prominent on PCs. Digital video and personal music distribution are becoming more prevalent, as well, and other features are on their way. For instance, cameras, microphones and headsets or handsets will become pervasive, giving PCs the capability to be more user-aware. Voice-enabled multiplayer games and chat will become common, increasing the use of the PC for telephone calls, conferences and video calls. Eventually, when telephones and PCs are on the same networks, universal messaging — which integrates and manages voicemail, email and fax messages — will also be common.
Microsoft’s vision is that every device of every size will be connected in the home, in the office or while on the road. Enabling that connectivity requires defining and developing all the different pieces of software that are necessary for these devices to find each other and establish virtual connections. Universal Plug and Play, or UPnP, is a critical technology that will enable this type of connectivity. UPnP will be able to connect everything from a standard PC and its peripherals to these new, small-form appliances.
Regardless if we are talking about advancing the platform upward to big servers, laterally in the form of extended everyday functionality or downward to small-form appliances, the PC hardware industry is at the forefront in developing all the products, from semiconductor devices and peripherals to complete systems, that are making this expanded market a reality.
PressPass: What will it take to deliver on this vision?
Stork: As the Windows platform extends from a collection of special purpose devices to incredibly powerful and reliable servers, early collaboration between Microsoft and hardware vendors is critical. With all the opportunity that this vision presents us with, we still have to ensure user-interface commonality, driver architecture commonality, manageability and interoperability between the software and hardware.
WinHEC has been an important part of that process. All the different players in the industry come together at this event, where they get the opportunity to understand the potential new advances for what they are designing, what they need to improve it and what the opportunities are in the year to come. One of the key demonstrations at WinHEC this year is the Microsoft Neighborhood, a special area in the trade show that features scenario-based rooms that communicate very tangibly what this vision is all about, with examples of how it could be applied. The Microsoft Neighborhood represents a collection of home, business and mobile demonstrations that represent a wide variety of interconnected devices that work together automatically.
PressPass: What does the roadmap for the Windows platform look like for the next several years?
Stork: Microsoft has two major Windows releases scheduled this year. The first was Windows 2000, which is designed for businesses of all sizes for their desktop, mobile and server needs. Later this year, we’ll be releasing the successor to Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, which is designed to meet the needs of consumers.
The release that follows Windows 2000 Professional and Windows Millennium Edition, code-named
will be a major milestone for the industry because it will unite both the business and consumer markets under one Windows platform. Windows 2000 utilizes the Windows NT code base, which brings many benefits to businesses of all sizes, including security, reliability, ease of use and great mobile features. With Whistler, both the business and consumer versions will utilize the Windows NT code base, bringing security, reliability and great mobile features to home users as well as businesses. The benefit for hardware developers is that they will be able to leverage their investments by developing devices and associated device drivers and applets that span both markets using one platform, whereas today, they need to support Windows 98 or Windows Millennium Edition, as well as Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000.
Two other product releases that are part of our roadmap this year include the Windows 2000 Data Center Edition and our first 64-bit version of Windows targeting systems based on Intel’s Itanium processor.
PressPass: Given all you’ve said about the importance of cooperation between the hardware industry and Microsoft, how can hardware vendors best prepare for this roadmap?
Stork: It’s very important that the hardware industry be aware that the version of Windows after Windows Millennium Edition will be built using Windows 2000 technology. The industry needs to be ready with the right hardware, testing, drivers and applets so that everything users want to do in the home works smoothly and automatically. Now is the time to begin preparing for this. WinHEC provides hardware vendors with information on a breadth of technologies and initiatives that are advancing the PC platform and connecting the world, such as UPnP, wireless, Universal Serial Bus (USB) and broadband. It also helps them see how new core capabilities such as imaging and video playback are becoming standard and how important it is that these capabilities work really well within the operating system.
The real promise of the Windows platform is that every device users have can be plugged in and work right off the bat, whether it plugs directly into the PC or into the network through UPnP. I think, collectively, the industry has a fair amount of work to do to realize this vision, but I’m confident we can do it. There is a lot of great innovation and opportunity in the years ahead.