ANAHEIM, Calif., March 26, 2001 — This week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), computer-hardware makers will learn about Windows XP and the opportunities it creates to build the next generation of PCs and mobile devices. PressPass spoke with Carl Stork, general manager for Windows Hardware Strategy at Microsoft, to find out what Microsofts newest operating system means for hardware makers and the future of the PC.
PressPass: This is WinHECs 10 th year. What key messages will Microsoft convey at this years conference?
Stork: At WinHEC, were talking about the "PC hardware ecosystem." What we mean by that is the interaction among all the different components of a computer system -- the hardware, the architecture, the firmware, all the added devices, and the device drivers -- and how all these things interact to create a greater whole. It's the interaction of all these different things that defines the quality of the user's experience.
The quality and variety of these individual pieces has given the Windows platform its vitality. Conversely, they also sometimes make it so that systems don't work as perfectly as people would like. With Windows XP, were making it easier to modify the hardware ecosystem so the industry can advance, and at the same time give the user a better all-around PC experience.
PressPass: Some people talk about the "decline of the PC." What does Microsoft see as the future of personal computing?
Stork: To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the PC industry's death have been greatly exaggerated. The PC remains the center of our digital world. According to reports weve seen, more PCs will be sold in 2001 than in any prior year. What has slowed is the rate of growth, not the number of units being sold. So there continues to be an incredible vitality around the PC platform.
Microsoft envisions a Windows XP environment where people continue to expand what they do with other devices, with the PCs coordinating all of them. We're going to be using PCs a whole lot, and they're going to talk to and communicate with a lot of other devices. So you might listen to your music on a portable digital device, but the place to catalog, organize, and store all that music will be on a PC.
PressPass: What impact will Windows XP have on the hardware industry?
Stork: Windows XP is important because hardware and device makers finally have a single operating system that they can design and test for. In addition, the features of Windows XP make the PC ecosystem better for end users, which should also give a big boost to sales in the entire PC and devices industry.
PressPass: What should hardware makers do to prepare for the arrival of Windows XP?
Stork: There's no question that the hardware makers have a key role to play. They have to test everything they're currently shipping, and anything they've shipped in the last two years, to make sure it works well with Windows XP, that upgrades are smooth, and that the drivers and other software are available.
But Windows XP will make all such tasks easier because for the first time the business and consumer versions of the software have been built on the same platform, the Windows 2000 engine. So hardware developers will be able to invest more resources in the future, because that single investment is going to cover both markets.
PressPass: What new features does Windows XP make available to hardware makers?
Stork: Windows XP does a really great job of supporting power management, for fast booting and waking up. It also has support for wireless networking, IEEE 1394 ("Firewire"), remote assistance, and automatic updating of software. Hardware designers can reference a PC-design checklist, which includes lots of scenarios for Windows XP, at http://www.microsoft.com/hwdev/ .
PressPass: What is Microsofts take on IEEE 1394 and what it means for the hardware community?
Stork: I think people are going to want to have 1394 connectors on their PCs and mobile devices so they can get video in and out of their PCs quickly. The consumer electronics industry adopted 1394 for digital electronics devices, and were definitely seeing the connectors becoming common on video devices. Theyre also appearing on certain high-end audio devices. So 1394, in my opinion, has critical mass.
It makes sense to work toward getting 1394 connectors onto all PCs, and especially onto all PCs used in any graphical way in a business. To do video, USB just isnt enough. USB today goes up to 12 megabits per second, and 1394 is around 200 to 400 megabits per second. You need that extra speed.
Then, once you've got 1394, it also becomes a candidate for things like printers, scanners, or an additional hard disk. So the potential is there for 1394 to be a connector for a lot of PC devices. In addition, if you had two PCs with a 1394 socket on there, you could put a cable between the two of them, and they'd be networked.
PressPass: What about wireless options? What support is Microsoft providing for such technologies as 802.11?
Stork : While there have been some competing technologies, the wireless LAN technology that appears to be adopted broadly in businesses and on campuses is 802.11b. Because 802.11b is robust, it's also going to be the logical technology for wireless networks in the home, for people who bring their laptops home from school or work. And there's great support for this kind of usage, including automatic configuration, built right in to Windows XP.
We're also starting to see some installation in public congregating areas, like airports. Right now I can use the 802.11b installation at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to access the Internet or my e-mail while I'm waiting for a plane.
PressPass: What about Windows XP Embedded? Where is Microsoft going with that product and what is its connection with Windows XP?
Stork: The embedded version of Windows XP will be built in modular components to enable developers to select the specific technology features they require for a Windows-powered device. Windows XP Embedded will deliver all the richness, reliability, and functionality of the next generation of Windows. The embedded product will also provide a powerful new set of development and authoring tools, shortening the time to market for new devices. Microsoft intends to have Windows XP Embedded available within 90 days of the release of Windows XP.
PressPass: For PC users who operate outside a corporate office, adding new hardware to a computer can be a daunting task. How will Windows XP help reduce "techno-anxiety" for consumers and mobile users?
Stork: The truth is that PC hardware and the Windows-based PCs have come a long way. But things still dont always work as smoothly as wed like. There are a lot of computers used in settings where you don't have a technical assistant available. So in developing Windows XP, Microsoft has provided features like faster start-up times, better support for devices to work together automatically, better "automatic networking," and the Remote Assistance feature.
PressPass: How will the expanded functionality of Windows XP change the way people use PCs?
Stork: Windows XP is focused around some great new experiences, including digital media, online experiences, communications, and collaborations. Windows XP will enable users to experience new and advanced scenarios in a simple and straightforward manner. With Windows XP, we expose these new experiences to users through intuitive and inviting user interfaces and wizards that enable people to achieve a higher level of productivity and satisfaction from their PC.
I also think that home networking is going to continue to be a big demand boost to the PC industry, and Windows XP will provide a seamless base for that. Where Ethernet will be the network of choice for the home, this standard will be automatically supported over various media types, such as wireless networking, a traditional Ethernet connection, connecting over a HomePNA, or connection using 1394 ports.
PressPass: What about the more far-fetched ideas for the "wired home"? How close are we to having the coffeepot start brewing as soon as we pick up the electric toothbrush in the morning?
Stork: At Microsoft we are trying to focus on what's practical and useful, as opposed to flashy. Humanity has already solved how to get the coffee made remotely, using a timer. But with features like pervasive networking, Universal Plug and Play, and software like Windows XP, even a gee-whiz service that starts your coffee brewing will be possible in the future.