WinHEC 2007 seems like a small show, with about 2000 attendees and a decidedly less-future-oriented schedule than previous shows. Nonetheless, I'm in LA for the week to cover the show. Here are some news articles, photos, and other pictures that should give you a feel for what Microsoft's announcing this week.

Jump ahead to WinHEC 2007 photo gallery.

News articles from the show

These articles originally appeared in WinInfo this week.

WinHEC 2007: Setting Expectations Accordingly
WinHEC 2007: At Gates Keynote, Microsoft Looks Back, Not to Future
WinHEC 2007: A Continued Emphasis on Vista, not the Future
WinInfo Short Takes: WinHEC Blog

WinHEC 2007: Setting Expectations Accordingly

I'm in Los Angeles this week for Microsoft's annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), which isn't usually as boring as it sounds: For the past several years, for example, Microsoft has used the show to divulge information about its then-upcoming OS, Windows Vista. But although this year's show promises to continue its focus on taking advantage of upcoming hardware trends, I'm getting a vibe from Microsoft that WinHEC 2007 won't be a big deal for anyone hoping for lots of information about upcoming Windows releases.

Instead, Microsoft seems intent on countering what it sees as unfair bad press about the recently released Vista. The company will provide information about Vista's successes in its first 100 days of availability and attempt to prove the naysayers wrong. Expect some information along these lines in the show's first two keynotes today, from Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie. (The now-retired Jim Allchin had historically keynoted WinHEC.)

Although this strategy is sure to disappoint Windows watchers, including myself, it makes sense: By keeping the buzz on Vista at this early point, the company doesn't have to risk having a future release steal the spotlight. Microsoft will also discuss Windows Server 2008 (code-named Longhorn Server), its recently detuned Windows Server Virtualization technology (code-named Viridian), and Windows Home Server at the show. I'll have more reports from Los Angeles throughout the week.

WinHEC 2007: At Gates Keynote, Microsoft Looks Back, Not to Future

At the Los Angeles Convention Center for Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), its hard not to think of PDC (Professional Developers Conference), the higher-profile developer-oriented show that Microsoft previously held here in 2005 and 2007. WinHEC, however, is a smaller show. And this year, WinHEC's 15th, it seems even smaller than usual because Microsoft has backtracked from its typical emphasis on the future and is focusing instead on the past.

The rationale is simple: Microsoft's latest OS, Windows Vista, was five years in the making, and was only released to the general public in January. And despite measurable real-world success, Microsoft is fighting against a growing perception--wrong-headed, as it turns out--that Vista is in trouble. Turns out nothing could be further from the truth: As of last week, Microsoft has sold almost 40 million copies of Windows Vista. That, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said during his Tuesday keynote address, means within its first five weeks of availability, there were already more Vista users worldwide than there are for any non-Microsoft operating system. The message is clear if not explicitly stated: The Mac may get all the positive press, but Vista surpassed the entire Mac user base in just over a month.

But Vista's successes aren't just about sales, Gates said. Thanks to its built-in instrumentation, Vista is able to report problems to the company so that they can be fixed more quickly than ever before. Gates says that customers report easier setup of Vista systems in its first 90 days than with previous Windows versions. "This opens up the platform opportunities and ... provides a new level of ambition [on the PC]," he said.

Gates talked up Windows Vista as the foundation of the PC platform for the next decade, and harkened back to the Windows 3.1 days of 1992 to demonstrate how much things have changed. Back then, he said, even using a graphical interface was controversial. But by 1995, with Windows 95, Microsoft's GUI investments had paid off, and there was a critical mass of PCs worldwide, allowing the industry to focus on Internet connectivity. Today, with Vista, he said, the PC plays a central role, but it now connects with a much wider range of devices and services than was possible 15 years ago.

To be fair, there was some talk of the future, though it was near-term, not the pie-in-the-sky stuff that typified previous WinHEC. Gates talked up a technology called Rally that makes it easier to set up and manage home networks. Built into Vista, Rally also works with a growing collection of other compatible devices, including wireless hardware and HD media bridges. He also said, cryptically, that Microsoft will be bringing the Xbox 360's remote media experiences, codenamed Pica, to various consumer electronics devices, like TVs, as well as PCs. This means, essentially, that the Vista-compatible Media Center Extender technology in the Xbox 360 will soon be available to a much wider range of users.

Gates also talked up Windows Home Server, the special Windows Server version shipping later this year for multi-PC households. Windows Home Server will be available with special home server hardware from PC makers like Gateway and HP, as well as in a standalone software version for enthusiasts. It provides PC backup, media sharing, and Web browser-based remote access functionality and appears to be an amazing product that should be of interest to the 40+ million people worldwide with multiple PCs and broadband Internet connections.

Finally, Gates also announced that Windows Server Codenamed "Longhorn" would ship as Windows Server 2008 by the end of this year. Microsoft recently shipped a Beta 3 version of Windows Server 2008 and Gates says that a key server technology, Windows Server Virtualization, will now ship in beta form by the end of the year as well.

Gates had nothing to say about technology product releases beyond this year, however. And maybe that's a more pragmatic tact to take. But again, for those of us interested in high level information about Microsoft's product strategy, WinHEC 2007 seems a bit too much like a step back instead of the expected and traditional step into the future.

WinHEC 2007: A Continued Emphasis on Vista, not the Future

After two days at WinHEC 2007, Microsoft's latest Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, one thing is clear: Microsoft has no intention of doing anything other than bolstering the success of its recently-released Windows Vista operating system. At past WinHEC shows, the company emphasized future technologies. But this year, perhaps because of its timing right after the Vista consumer launch, Microsoft is all about the past.

"We've never had a WinHEC this close to a major Windows launch," Windows Client Partner Platform Group Director Dave Wascha told me at the show. "For most people, Windows Vista IS the future."

Microsoft has touted a lot of facts and figures to prove that Vista is indeed a huge success, despite a growing perception, especially in tech-centric blogger circles, that the new OS is stumbling out of the gate. As reported previously, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced Monday that the company had sold 40 million copies of Windows Vista since its January consumer launch. And despite the fact that this number is pretty obvious given the number of PCs that have been sold in that time period, many continue to question that number, and Microsoft's sincerity.

Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Nash dedicated his 30-minute keynote address on Wednesday to addressing how Vista has performed, from a compatibility perspective, to previous Windows versions. He noted that Windows 2000 had 350 total drivers available at launch, compared to 12,000 for XP and a whopping 33,000 for Windows Vista. And device support is improving dramatically over time: When Vista launched to businesses in November 2006, there were 1.5 million supported devices. That figure jumped to 1.7 million in January and 1.9 million today.

Additionally, 48 of the top 50 consumer applications are now Vista compatible, and all five of the top five consumer security applications are Vista compatible as well. The message here is clear: Vista is far more compatible with the hardware and software out there than were previous Windows versions, despite what you might be reading online. You can find out more about this topic in my "Hot or Not" editorial on the SuperSite for Windows (http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_100days.asp).

Microsoft's server sessions were a bit more forward looking, if only because the next Windows Server version, Windows Server 2008, won't ship until late 2007. Microsoft noted that it will ship a detuned version of its hypervisor-based virtualization solution for Windows Server 2008 within 180 days of that product's completion. Looking ahead, the company plans to ship new small business, medium business, and storage server products in 2008. And the next interim release of Windows Server, currently dubbed Windows Server 2008 R2, is on the docket for 2009. "It's a predictable rhythm," Microsoft general manager Bill Laing said in his own keynote on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich provided a surprisingly humorous and compelling keynote address Tuesday as well, focusing on Windows Server kernel internals. An accomplished speaker and arguably the most knowledgeable person on earth about Windows internals, Russinovich talked up a number of highly technical issues. But go figure, it was the best talk I've seen so far this week.

WinInfo Short Takes: WinHEC Blog

As a pretty frequent traveler, you'd think I'd be interested in articles about flying and being more efficient and so forth, but the reality is, I don't agree with much of the advice I read, whether it's aimed at business travelers or tourists. So with the hypocrisy of this situation admitted right up front, I'd like to offer my own advice about flying. But this advice is aimed at the people flying the planes, not at the airlines customers who are jammed six to a row back in coach. It's very simple: Stop talking. And if you do have something to say, just say it and stop talking again. I'm getting very tired of the pilot jumping on the all-too-loud intercom to announce something about the weather, wind speed, or whatever nonsense he feels the need to discuss, while I'm watching a DVD on my laptop. So I pause the movie when I hear his voice. And the following silliness ensues...

Captain: "So the weather in Boston is a chilly 42 degrees...." [long wait]

[I un-pause the movie and 10 seconds elapse.]

Captain: Winds are out of the northeast and ... uh... are 12 miles per hour.

[I pause again. And wait. Nothing. So I resume watching.]

Captain: We're told there's a bit of a stack up at the airport, so we might need to circle over Providence for a 10 minutes. But we'll still get you into the gate on time.

[Again, I've paused it. And I wait. He's done, I hope. I start watching again.]

Captain: We hope you've enjoyed flying today. We know you have a choice of airlines....

Paul: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

You get the idea. This happens about three times a flight, on average, and I seem to be under a speaker every time. You'd think that people who fly as often as these guys do would understand that it's miserable enough sitting next to the portly people from Ohio and getting jammed by the drink cart every time it comes up the aisle. How about a little peace and quiet?

OK, so I hate the act of traveling. Which is unfortunate, because I like to visit places. It's just the process of getting there that's so painful. It shouldn't be this terrible. But it is. The silliness of traveling has only increased since 9/11, of course, and if the intent of terrorists is to horribly inconvenience people, they've certainly made their mark on the travel industry.

Here's how I spent Thursday. I woke up at 4:00 A.M. Los Angeles time, packed, showered, dress, and raced to the airport (literally, at 80 mph) by cab. I arrived to a variety of lines to choose from--check-in, curb-side check-in, and electronic check-in--and chose the latter. After declining (three times no less) the option of a fourth line, for those not checking luggage, just around the corner to the right, my ticket prints out as, "Cannot process this request. Please proceed to the gate for seat assignment." I speak with the attendant, get a boarding pass, and wait in a line so my luggage can be x-rayed. Then I wait in a line so I can go up an escalator. Then another line that lets me choose between two security lines. Then I wait in line for security. And to top off my LAX experience, I then wait in three separate lines for a newspaper, breakfast, and the plane (twice, of course). That's a lot of standing in line, and at least at a place like Disneyland there's a potentially fun ride waiting at the end. My so-called direct flight required me to switch planes, and, seriously, terminals in Dallas, causing a 40-minute layover to turn into a cross-airport marathon starring me as the idiot who didn't look at his flight information carefully enough before pressing "purchase." And those two screaming kids right in front of me on the way back to Boston? Absolutely adorable. I could just see them above the protruding gut and elbow of the aforementioned gentleman from Ohio who was sitting beside, and as it turns out, partially on me. At Logan Airport, being the hive of efficiency it is, it took 30 minutes for my bags to arrive, but at least I can't complain about the traffic: We were so late getting in that rush hour had already come and gone. I stepped foot in my house at 8:00 P.M., which, when you factor in the 3-hour time change, was exactly 13 hours after I had woken up. It was a great day.

As you're quickly realizing, I could go on and on about this. And maybe I will. I guess I've still got that happy buzz that everyone has when they get home from a trip. Or something. The good news is that the LA trip and Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2007, the reason I was there, were both good. I got physically accosted, literally, by some street people, which was interesting in a George Romero zombie movie kind of way. I also got to hang out with some friends from Microsoft and the tech press that I don't get to see very often. And only one of those was actually any fun. (Yes, it's the second one. Geesh.) LA was accommodating with wonderful weather, though I would have preferred Seattle to LA. I'm hoping it will be back in Seattle, where it belongs, next year.

The big controversy at WinHEC this year was that Microsoft decided to focus on Windows Vista (and, to a lesser extent, Windows Server 2008--formerly code-named Longhorn) rather than future versions of Windows. I have my suspicions about this--after all, the highly secretive Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president in charge of Windows and Windows Live Engineering, is now running the Windows show at Microsoft--but there's some truth to what I was told on the record at the show: For most people, Vista is still the future. OK, fair enough. But given the impending release of Vista SP1, it seems like Microsoft is running out of places where they can educate developers and others about the changes coming down the pike. I guess we have Microsoft TechEd 2007 next month and PDC 2007 next Fall. And then it's 2008.

Photos and other pictures

Monday, May 14: Los Angeles and the LACC

Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC)
Exterior, LACC
Staples Center

Monday, May 14: WinHEC Expo Hall

HTC Shift (UMPC)
Samsung UMPC
Intel Metro - Notebook with Sideshow concept PC
Motion C5 Tablet PC
George Ou, ZDNet
Nadine Kano, Microsoft
Fujitsu UMPC
Bulb PC concept
Building Blocks PC concept
MADE in China PC concept

Tuesday, May 15: Microsoft materials

HP Home Server
Windows Home Server conceptual diagram
Windows Home Server logo
Medion Home Server
Windows Server 2008 logo
Windows Server 2008 packaging

Tuesday, May 15: At the show

Kenote hall
Terrible Gates picture
Maarten falls asleep
Analyst Roger Kay discusses Vista's reception in the market
Polycom Office Communicator phone design
Polycom Office Communicator phone design with touchscreen
Using the Polycom's fingerprint reader to logon
More Office Communicator phones
More Office Communicator phones

Tuesday, May 15: Los Angeles Dodgers game

Parking lot, Dodgers Stadium
Steven Bink
Dodgers Stadium, exterior
Dodgers Stadium, exterior
Ward
Steven, Rafael, Maarten
Steven, Rafael, Maarten, Bryant
Dodgers Stadium, interior
Iain
Dodgers Stadium, interior

Tuesday, May 15: Day two keynotes

Mike Nash keynote
ATI DirectX 10 demo
ATI DirectX 10 demo
Bill Laing keynote
Mark Russinovich keynote

Tuesday, May 15: AMD Grog and Blog at the veranda of the Figueroa Hotel

Bink
Table o' bloggers
Talking it up with AMD
Poolside at the Figueroa
Figueroa detail
Rafael
Mary Jo

Silly cell phone photos

Traffic in front of Dodger Stadium
LACC interior detail (PDC 03 homage)