The Windows NT 5.0 Technical Workshop was held at the Sheraton Towers in downtown Seattle. It is what it sounds like, a rich resort with all the amenities (that is, it's everything our hotel wasn't) including its own travel center and the like. The conference was held on the second floor, amusingly set next to a Rotary Club conference of sorts that featured some interesting-looking buttons. Pressing on, we received our first shock of the day, a massive (and I mean massive) binder full of white papers and slide presentation print-outs. The paper in the binder is about 6 inches tall (think about that for a second) and the thing has to weigh about 30 pounds. We got our ID badges, binder, and a few stacks of paper than Microsoft didn't have time to collate into the binder yet and sat down on the floor to mull over this a bit. Around us, a crowd was gathering, including a few familiar faces from Windows NT magazine and other trade publications. We grabbed some drinks (as usual, Microsoft provided a nice buffet breakfast each day drinks for the duration) and headed into the conference room when the doors opened at 8:00.
The stage was done up in typical
Microsoft fashion with the same hardware the company uses at tradeshows.
Keith and I grabbed seats right up front but two massive display panels
brought images from computers on stage to the back of the room as well.
We spent the next few minutes going over the agenda and other details of
the conference. A couple of interesting notes: Microsoft, as usual,
provided a press room with computers and Internet access, and free phone
use. Not too shabby. They also offered to ship everyone's binders home
for free via Federal Express. Given the heft of this thing, I can't tell
you enough how much I appreciated this, and the cost of such a gift is
staggering: By my estimate, about 150 of the 181 attendees were from
outside the United States.
Day One -- Tuesday, August 18
8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. -- Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. -- Introduction and Product Overview
10:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. -- BREAK
10:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. -- Distributed Services
12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. -- LUNCH
1:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. -- Core Architecture (Base)
2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. -- Networking, Communications, & Printing
4:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- BREAK
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- Distributed Applications
5:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. -- Day-One General Q&A
6:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. -- Dinner Reception
8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. -- Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. -- Setup
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. -- Management Infrastructure
11:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. -- BREAK
11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. -- IntelliMirror
12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. -- LUNCH
1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. -- Hardware Support & Multimedia
2:45 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. -- Mobile Enhancements
4:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- BREAK
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. -- User Interface
5:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. -- Closing and Q&A
6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. -- Closing Reception
Introduction and Product Overview
Microsoft Senior Vice President Jim Allchin opened the conference with a technical and marketing overview of Windows NT 5.0. Allchin described the history of Windows NT, including an interesting timeline that somehow manages to squeeze a major release of NT into ever year since it was introduced. The following list also includes the goals of each release:
1993 -- Windows NT 3.1 -- Micro-kernel
1994 -- Windows NT 3.5 -- Size and performance
1995 -- Windows NT 3.51 -- Interoperability and compatibility
1996 -- Windows NT 4.0 -- New user interface
1997 -- Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition -- Enterprise features (large memory support, etc.)
1998 -- Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server -- Legacy desktops
Based on this, it's fair to say that 1999 will be no different. Allchin told the 181 in attendance (which included representatives from 32 countries) that while Windows NT 5.0 was the most important release in NT's history, it was also just another step on the path to Bill Gates' vision of "information at your fingertips." Future releases, he said, would finish that goal. While I feel that this is a realistic view of the product, Allchin's comments to the press that day stand in sharp contrast to comments made earlier by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and president Steve Ballmer, who have described this release as something they're betting the company on. No matter: In the grand scheme of things, Allchin's comments ring truer, though they are far less exciting, I suppose.
After the history lesson, Allchin and Windows Product Manager Yusuf Mehdi, along with Windows NT Product Manager Mike Nash, gave a general overview of Windows NT 5.0. If I came away with one general theme for Windows NT 5.0, it would be this:
Windows NT 5.0 is aimed at the corporate user, not the home/consumer user.
Please read that a few times to
yourself. While it's true that many people (myself included) use NT at
home, Windows NT 5.0 will not supplant Windows 98 as the home
operating system of choice. Microsoft does promise that the next major
version of Windows NT after 5.0 will include a consumer version, but 5.0
is not it. This is, of course, a way to cover their tracks: While NT 5.0
(particularly Workstation) will, in fact, be a better OS for many home
users, the company is focusing this release on corporate needs and
features. Most specifically, it will not be providing the same level of
compatibility with home/consumer apps that Windows 98 does.
Goals for Windows NT 5.0
Allchin iterated through a list of goals for Windows NT 5.0. These include:
Given that list, here are the major
features of each edition of Windows NT 5.0 (not that each succeeding
edition is essentially a superset of the one before it):
Windows NT Workstation 5.0
Microsoft stressed that Windows NT Workstation 5.0 is for corporate users, not consumers. Key features include:
Moshie Dunie, a Microsoft Vice President, also discussed the company's target date for shipping Windows NT 5.0. He said that there were 5000 people working on the product within Microsoft and its development partners. The NT team is composed on sub-teams (such as "Networking," "Shell," and the like) that work with a central build, test, and management team that is responsible for "building" Windows NT 5.0 every day. Dunie says that there are far more people testing NT 5.0 within Microsoft than there are actually developing it. Dunie also provided the following list of Windows NT 5.0 milestones:
Windows NT 5.0 Beta is shipping to over 250,000 testers (45,000 technical beta testers, 25,000 channel partners, 200,000 MSDN members, and 181 conference attendees). Dunie said that our CDs (which include Workstation and Server) were being burned as he spoke: We ended up getting them late Wednesday.
Dunie suggested that Beta 3 could be expected in late 1998 or early 1999 though no firm release date was given, of course. Given the massive improvements between Beta 1 and Beta 2, however, I predict that Windows NT 5.0 will see the light of day before the end of June 1999. However, I think it's best to remember the words of Moshie Dunie, who summed up the release of NT 5.0 like so: "When customers tell us it's ready, [we will release Windows NT 5.0,] not a day earlier."
After Windows NT 5.0...
Jim Allchin briefly discussed Microsoft's plans for post-Windows NT 5.0 releases, though he stopped shorting of specifically mentioning Windows NT 5.1 (code-named "Asteroid") and Windows NT 6.0 (code-named "Neptune"). He did, however, say that future releases of Windows NT would include the following: