Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, known to its friends as WinHEC, is this week in Los Angeles. It will be a week of Deep Geek -- and it won't be all Vista all the time, either. You can download the program as a very colorful Excel spreadsheet. The six session tracks and more than 100 hours of sessions reveal a lot about what's on Microsoft's mind when it comes to Windows: the top three things seem to be fixing Vista's device driver shortfall, pushing Windows Server, and making sure connected devices and a handful of new hardware technologies play well with its flagship operating system.I'm going to be there because I just love it when guys from Redmond talk down-and-dirty. Of course, Bill Gates, the Living Flag of Microsoft, will kick it off with a keynote Tuesday morning. The other keynoters will include Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer; Bill Laing, general manager of the Windows Server Division; and Mark Russinovich, technical Fellow, Platform and Services Division.
(Fearless prediction: I'll bet one of the keynoters will show off the project revealed Friday by Microsoft and SanDisk to let you install your Windows desktop -- data, apps, and interface -- on a flash drive. The timing can't possibly be a coincidence. It's a made-for-WinHEC photo-op with all the elements: it ties together Windows and hardware, it spotlights a business partner, and it promises to give a great demo.)
WinHEC's six program tracks are Driver Fundamentals (32 sessions), Windows Server (31 sessions), Windows Client (30 sessions), Connected Devices (21 sessions), System Fundamentals (18 sessions), and Windows Networking/Storage (11 sessions). The topic missing from that list, of course, would be security, but then, security will be an elephant in every meeting room this week.
There are interesting aspects of all those areas. In the Windows Server area, for example, several of the sessions are slated to focus on virtualization -- and they'll come a month after Microsoft pushed back the release of the Viridian server virtualization software beta, and only days after it announced it was cutting features to make its ship date.
The nearly 150 session topics run the gamut of technologies -- some that Microsoft is trying to get in front of, like virtualization for servers and clients, and others that Microsoft is really getting behind and pushing, like XPS, its portable document format that's intended to compete with Adobe's PDF.
Microsoft development efforts scheduled to get some time in the WinHEC spotlight include Rally, a package of technologies that extend some of the benefits of living on the system bus to network-connected devices; XML Paper Specification (XPS), Microsoft's competitor to Adobe's PDF; and HD Photo, the newer-than-tomorrow Windows Media image format. Several emerging technologies that didn't originate with Microsoft also will get a lot of attention -- especially flash memory technologies like solid-state disks and hybrid hard disks, and the PCI Express slot specification that's beginning to appear in laptops and support large amounts of flash. It's going to be a week that should give the geeks a good look at the future as Microsoft sees it.