Like many people, I opted out of WinHEC 2008 when Microsoft scheduled the show back to back with PDC. (They won’t be doing that again, fortunately.) Anyhoo, today is the first day of WinHEC, and here are some of the developments from the show:

Today at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2008, Microsoft Corp. showcased new innovations in Windows 7 that make it easier for hardware partners to create new experiences for Windows PC customers. Windows senior vice presidents Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan encouraged hardware partners to start testing their current products and building new products on the application programming interface (API) complete pre-beta that was distributed to WinHEC attendees.

Microsoft demonstrated new features in Windows 7 that optimize how customers interact with Windows PCs, manage devices, access broadband and engage with wireless experiences, providing new opportunities for partners to improve their customers’ experience. The following features in particular were highlighted:

Devices and Printers. To make it easier for customers to interact with all the devices on their Windows PC, Microsoft has created a new feature in Windows 7 called Devices and Printers. Devices and Printers provides a single place for customers to interact with devices, browse files or manage settings. Devices can be connected to the PC using USB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, with simple wizards that simply the setup process.

Device Stage. Device Stage enables hardware manufactures to create an even richer user experience, especially for more specialized devices such as cell phones, multifunction printers and digital cameras. Device Stage is designed to help Windows 7 customers take advantage of advanced features for devices. For mobile phones, portable media players, cameras and printers connected to a Windows 7 PC, Device Stage provides information on the device status and runs common tasks in a single window customized by the device manufacturer.

Mobile broadband. Windows 7 delivers a simpler and more reliable way to connect to the Internet using wireless modems. The process is similar to connecting to any other wireless network, and is done using the View Available Networks feature. A consistent experience for customers and a common infrastructure for partners enables lower support, maintenance, deployment and management costs, and allows partners to focus on higher-value services rather than basic connectivity development.

Windows Touch. Controlling the computer by touching the screen is a core part of the Windows 7 experience, with visual feedback provided for tap and double-tap gestures. The Start menu, Windows Taskbar and Windows Explorer are touch-ready. Windows 7 also introduces support for multitouch technology, which enables customers to control what happens on the screen in new ways by zooming in, zooming out and rotating images with their fingers.

Windows 7 reflects an evolved approach to engineering that weaves partner feedback more closely to the development process, and enables the delivery of innovative new features while preserving compatibility and performance.

Microsoft also announced early industry support for Device Stage from partners including Brother, Epson, HP, Motorola, Nikon, Sansa, Canon and Sony.