The Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) has always been big on future trends, which makes it interesting to me and, I suspect, many SuperSite readers. But WinHEC 2004 offered an unprecedented look at the future of Windows, with numerous glimpses at future Longhorn-era user interfaces, technologies, and innovations. It's exciting stuff, enjoy.

Note: Some of these images are Photoshopped photos from presentation slide decks Microsoft declined to release publicly and suffer, quality-wise, as a result.

Auxiliary displays for Tablet PCs and Notebook Computers

Hardware-based auxiliary displays will begin appearing on Tablet PCs and other notebook computer in 2005 or 2006, Microsoft says. This handy feature gives the user quick access to personal information management (PIM) information, time, battery life, multimedia functionality like DVD and music playback, and other useful features while a laptop is closed and/or off. There will be different size and quality displays, which can be black and white or color. Microsoft's hardware partners will create the actual displays and integrate them into their product lines, while Microsoft will provide the software links to make it work.


Auxiliary Display Properties.

Auxiliary display.

Notebook lid with auxiliary display.
 

Auxiliary display.
   
 

Color Management

Longhorn will include a new Windows Color System (WCS) as part of its Avalon presentation layer. As such, it will support a managed code plug-in architecture, a device control infrastructure that handles bidirectional communication and control of color information between Longhorn based PCs and devices such as printers, scanners, and cameras. Longhorn will employ new Calibration Wizards that are based on the visual video color calibration wizards found today in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004.


Color Management: General Settings.

Color Management: Display Settings.

Color Management: Input Rules.  
 

Contacts and Communication History

Windows has included an integrated contact management application, dubbed Windows Address Book, for several years, but in Longhorn, the Contacts library will gain new precedence and will likely be adopted by the Office team for Outlook, and by numerous third parties. Microsoft has big plans for the Contacts library in Longhorn, though those dreams are only partially realized in build 4074. Eventually, you will be able to connect Contacts to numerous portable devices (like cell phones) through the Longhorn SyncManager infrastructure, connect electronically with nearby contacts for peer-to-peer collaboration and file sharing, and perform other duties which are either impossible today or require an extensive collection of third party software, much of which doesn't currently work together. One of the more intriguing parts of this work is the Communications History view, which will chronologically detail all of the phone, email, instant messaging (IM), peer-to-peer, or other conversations you've had with contacts. The Communications History view can be sorted by date, rating, message type, and other criteria.


Longhorn Contacts.

Contacts (Longhorn Build 4074)

Communications History.
 

Longhorn SyncManager.
   
 

Mobility Center

Mobility Center is a concept Windows Activity Center (see here for background information) for Longhorn era mobile computers that will provide a handy front-end to all the things you need to touch when you go from one place to another. Activty profiles are abstracted by a section called Activity Setting, which provides one-click access to mobile profiles like "Attend a meeting" or "Give a presentation."


Windows Mobility Center.
   
 

Pen Optimized Skin for Longhorn-era Tablet PCs

The Pen Optimization Skin is a top-level PIM screen that targeting an upcoming generation of smaller, more personal Tablet PCs that will typically feature screens that are 5- to 8-inches (today's Tablet PC screens are 10- to 15-inches). The Pen Optimized Skin is being designed more for reading and consuming information that for creating it, and it will feature a flexible view of the information you've most recently worked on, including recent mail items, scheduled events, to-do items, documents and the like.


Tablet PC Pen Optimized Skin.
   
 

Power Management Sidebar fly out

Longhorn will feature enhanced power management functionality for mobile computers that can optionally be accessed through a Sidebar fly-out power meter. Longhorn's power management features will be more granular than is possible with XP today, with while the system can automatically turn off uneeded devices behind the scenes if you'd like. The Sidebar fly-out will provide valuable information that's currently not available, like how long it will take for your system to reach a full charge. In the shots below, I compare a prototype design with the actual power management fly-out that appears in build 4074.


Power management Sidebar fly-out (prototype).

Power management Sidebar fly-out (Longhorn build 4074).
 
 

Phone integration, Longhorn/"Troy" concept PC

In late 2002, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (HP) began a cohesive development strategy that tied upcoming hardware trends to Microsoft's upcoming software designs. The first fruit of this work was the Athens PC prototype, shown last year at WinHEC 2003, which showed how future systems could integrate more closely with related office technologies like the telephone. In late 2003, HP showed off an updated version of the Athens PC prototype which utilized shipping HP computer hardware and a breakout box to hold the controls which weren't covered by shipping hardware. At WinHEC 2004, Microsoft and HP were back with the Troy PC prototype, an updated version of Athens that again featured shipping HP hardware and a breakout box, but this time included the Longhorn Aero user experience.


Start a new phone call.

Phone conversation fly-out.