RealTime IT News

Microsoft's WinHec Doesn't Match Buzz of PDC

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Convention Center can accommodate up to 60,000 trade show attendees if need be, as it has in previous years during the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

So putting 1,500 people in the place for the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) seemed like overkill. However, these plans are made well in advance and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) couldn't have predicted the economic downturn.

"We heard one Microsoft guy say the economy is in a downturn. I see that in people's comments, when I ask them, 'So what are you working on?' There's not a lot of innovation going on, people are just trying to bear through the tough times," said Joe Meza, a principal firmware engineer with SanDisk.

The company did know it was putting WinHEC back-to-back with the Professional Developer's Conference (PDC), and in the same building. PDC got a lot of attention as the official coming out party for a pre-release version of Windows 7. In addition to the audience being one-quarter the size of PDC (6,000 for PDC, 1,500 for WinHEC), the press room was fairly empty for WinHEC, with many journalists not returning for a second week.

Attendees described the show as "subdued," mostly due to Microsoft being taken down a peg with the embarrassment of Vista. Some declined to speak on the record, citing corporate rules. Others felt that while the sessions were good, there wasn't a whole lot of excitement.

"There's not much new compared to last year. This year is not as exciting," said Anita Banerjee, an engineer with OCR Reprographics Technologies, a maker of scanners. "In Windows 7, they have changed some of the look and feel but it's not a major change. From a device driver point of view, there is little new."

T.C. Weinandt, director of support for software maker SoftThinks Technology, felt the same way. "For me, going from Vista to Windows 7 is like going from Windows 98 to Windows 98SE. It's just a huge optimization pack for me," he said.

But Meza liked what he saw from Microsoft. "You can see Microsoft is excited about Windows 7. One thing they are doing differently for Windows 7 than they did for Vista is they are trying to pull in third party players early," he said.

Digging into Windows 7

The sessions make a good start but are not the be all, end all for the developers, Banerjee noted. She's still got to do some homework on DeviceStage, which she said was the one thing in Window 7 that looked interesting to her. "Here, they are just covering the idea. It's hard to go into the details of a technology in a 45 minute session," she said.

For Weinandt, he found his interest shifting from Windows 7 to Server 2008 R2. "We came to hear about Windows 7, but when we look at some of the features of Release 2, with the emphasis on virtualization and Live Migration, that's an opportunity for us," he said.

Something plenty could agree on, including several who spoke off the record: the food was awful. The LACC closed its food court and only provided sub par catered meals. With no restaurants near the show, people had little choice but to eat the grade D meals.

The next WinHEC is tentatively planned for early 2009 in New Orleans. There likely won't be any complaining about the food at that show.