This week, Microsoft is hosting WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) and Driver DevCon 2005, events geared towards developing Windows-based hardware and, or course, drivers for hardware. What makes this year's event so exciting are a few things:
1) Longhorn has enough industry buzz that people are anxious for information, especially with Beta 1 around the corner.
2) New technologies, notably version 2.0 of the .NET Framework, VS.NET 2005 (Whidbey), and SQL Server 2005 (Yukon), are all, obviously enough, being released in 2005.
3) 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are officially launched at WinHEC.
Last, but certainly not least:
4) I'm now a developer in the Microsoft Windows Hardware Platform Evangelism group, and this event is put on by my group.
Bill G's keynote touched on a lot of the above (particularly #4 -- well, as I remember it, anyway). On a humorous note, Bill did remark that he never did make the comment, "640KB is more than enough RAM anyone will ever need." He also joked that "If you believe that, you're also likely to believe any number of spam messages that are supposedly sent under my name." Hmmm, I'll have to go back and check the "famous quotes" in the company museum, I thought they had his 640KB quote in there somewhere. He did concede that 2^64 would be enough "for awhile."
Seeing a lot of the 64-bit applications in action is truly exciting. In the Gaming Zone, AMD and Alienware hosted a large Far Cry competition. While these machines had major horsepower (AMD 4000, 1 GB Ram, NVidia 6800 Ultra video cards), the 64-bit advantages were really amazing.
Lightwave showed some remarkeable improvements with 64-bit as well; as someone who used to live in 3D applications, I'd love to see how well software vendors integrate 64-bit into consumer level applications to improve both GUI response time as well as render time.
A little less eye candy, but still really cool nonetheless, were the peformance differences on SQL Server between the respective 32-bit and 64-bit versions that raise the glass ceiling on SQL Performance (I'll refrain from using the marketing power words, such as "shatter the glass ceiling." We all know it's still there, albeit a lot higher). One of the demos, in particular, displayed CPU utilzation on two identical machines under load executing SQL queries; the 64-bit counterparts could handle well above 4 or 5 times the equivalent load of a 32-bit version.
I can play about six chords on a guitar and maybe the first few notes of Stairway, but nonetheless this guitar looks really sweet. It was up for raffle in the Intel exhibit.
The convention hall was fairly modest compared to what you might find at the Javits' during Internet Expo, but where the Internet Expo has a little of something for everyone, the WinHEC exhibits were specifically targetting, of course, Windows Hardware.
I was especially interested in some of the Wi-fi streaming and UPnP devices. The Media Center PC fits a certain niche very well, but where products like Tivo and Microsoft's own DVR really shine is the simplicity of use. For example, I listen to a lot of music (both streaming and MP3s) and would like to think that I can listen to streaming radio station without going through a PC, but still utilize a device on my 802.11G home network. Based on the devices I saw, we're going to see a lot of the void between full desktops and "legacy" hardware like cable boxes filled with embedded devices adobting wireless standards and UPnP.
In fact, AMD had a number of amazingly small form factor devices -- some showing the future of laptop development, others using embedded software like Windows CE. One of the fanless models was particularly noteworthy, since one of the challenges in designing a device is making it suitable for the surroundings, like a bedroom or living room where the ambient noise of one or two 80mm fans would be overbearing.
One of the more interesting technologies that caught my attention is Metro. Most people will of course think of PDF when hearing about Metro. (As an aside, I think Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia will certainly intensify competition between Microsoft and Adobe; Metro -- which will be integrated into Longhorn -- is shaping up to add more fuel to fire) Metro is essentially a framework built on many standards (namely XML), and is designed to describe both content and layout of documents in an extensible way.
Although the technology could be used to create open source viewers to create platform-independant documents, the focus and buzz seemed to be on publishing; a Metro-equipped printer, for example, would have a built in RIP that can natively accept Metro documents, lending itself to producing the sharpest output possible. As someone who used to spend a lot of time in color reproduction in the RGB to CMYK conversion, I'm really interested to learn more about Metro.
More to come as I attend some sessions and attend the x64 launch party.