RealTime IT News

Hardware Players Get First Shot at Longhorn

Though its Windows "Longhorn" operating system won't be released for a couple of years, Microsoft is getting its hardware ducks in a row now.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor will hold court with its hardware partners next week at its WinHEC conference. Partners and developers are expected to get their first preview of the next-generation OS including the latest Longhorn Development Kit, Windows Driver Framework and Driver Install Frameworks. Companies like HP, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, and ATI are also scheduled to be on hand to show how their products fall right in line with Bill Gate's vision of "Seamless Computing."

While the company declined to extrapolate on any specifics being announced next week, the company will cover a wide range of issues, including system requirements for its Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition, Windows Media DRM, Windows CE and Windows XP Embedded.

"We're seeing a drive toward a harder integration between hardware and software," said JupiterResearch Senior Analyst Joe Wilcox. "Microsoft is certainly talking up its managed code and it's a fair bet that it will impact hardware drivers as well. The manufacturers will need to get up to speed on Microsoft's changes to its file system, graphics engine and new APIs."

Wilcox said many of the drivers are expected to be in place, as Microsoft's vision for PCs in the 2006 sales cycles predict platforms running 4- to 6 GHz processors with at least a 1 terabyte hard drive, 1 Gigabit Ethernet networking speeds and a multi-faceted wireless network.

One area creating a lot of buzz is Microsoft's support for the Web Services for Devices API (WSDAPI), which is the first new Web Services Devices Profile for PC-based client applications, PC-hosted devices and embedded devices, and control points. The spec was co-developed with the help of Intel, BEA and Cannon, and is partially based on WS-Discovery.

Microsoft is also expected to highlight its support for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), call control for Bluetooth-enabled devices and synchronization with mobile devices.

The other hot topic is the new Longhorn presentation engine (code-named Avalon). The technology is expected to work with Windows Longhorn graphics hardware requirements and be used on the Windows desktop by the Desktop Composition Engine and Desktop Window Manager.

Microsoft also is highlighting its security with a discussion of its ISA Server Architecture and hardware design considerations for developing systems for Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB). On the infrastructure front, Microsoft expects to talk more about the development of Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) for 32-bit and 64-bit systems, and how it fits into Windows Longhorn. The alternative to today's BIOS boot layer is being co-developed by Microsoft, Intel and others.

The company also is expected to discuss its upcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2. While the upgrade is not due now until June or even July, Microsoft said it would automatically ship the upgrade as part of its new edition of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. While the delay is no big deal for desktop PCs, Wilcox said Microsoft is really losing out with the Tablet PC crowd.

"The longer Microsoft takes delivering SP2, the more likely that the software vendor and its Tablet PC manufacturer makers will miss, yet again, the back-to-school buying season," Wilcox said. "OEMs take four to six weeks, minimum, to get their systems in place. They could make the holiday buying season, but the consumer market has better traction with education behind it."