Gates To Kick Off PDC With Longhorn Overview

LOS ANGELES — Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is slated to kick off the company’s Professional Developers Conference here Monday with an overview of its latest pre-beta Windows operating system and how it advances the company’s .NET platform strategies.

Gates is speaking to attendees as Microsoft prepares to take the wraps off pre-beta builds of its next-generation Windows operating system, known as Longhorn, along with database software SQL Server (Yukon) and its Visual Studio developer tools (Whidbey).

He arrives at PDC as the company he helped found moves aggressively to achieve improved security across the Microsoft lines, such as adding automated patches for some customers and building new development environments that help developers write more secure applications.

The pre-beta “bits” of Longhorn, Yukon and Whidbey, which organizers said would be released Tuesday, will give developers and the rest of the technology world a glimpse of just how far Microsoft is moving with its .NET platform for building Web Services capabilities and key integration features across all of its software lines.

Gates was slated to deliver the first keynote address at 8:30 am PDT, followed by Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsoft’s platforms group, who is expected to drill farther into discussions of new key platform builds.

Conference organizers were also scrambling Sunday to re-arrange schedules and accommodate late-arriving attendees and Microsoft participants who were stranded in transit after excessive smoke from raging wildfires in southern California closed L.A.’s airport for a few hours Sunday. The fires have destroyed hundreds of homes in the region and the smoke from them is visible throughout the city. L.A.’s airport was reopened Sunday afternoon but incoming flights were still delayed.

The PDC conference includes over 140 sessions that are designed to get developers thinking about building applications that reflect where computing is going. Some of the Longhorn features that will be discussed in further detail include:

  • Aero, the code-name for Longhorn’s new user interface that will feature 3D capabilities. Though said to be among the “least-baked” of the features in the build so far, attendees are expecting Gates to shed some more light on the concept in his keynote address.

  • Avalon, a new platform set of APIs for building “smart, rich, media applications.”

  • WinFS, the Windows File System that is expected to be among the more talked-about features for storing meta-data because it is integrated with Microsoft’s SQL database;

  • Indigo, the next release of MSFT’s Web services infrastructure for building connected applications;

  • New features in the company’s trustworthy computing and security initiatives; improvements in real-time communications and speech, plus what organizers call integrated workflow capabilities.

    According to Jupiter Research (whose parent company also owns this publication), Microsoft is increasingly tweaking product strategies as software development progressively favors cross integration of features among disparate software categories, such as Office and Windows Server.

    Microsoft terms this shift “integrated innovation,” which represents a dramatic shift from Microsoft’s longstanding practice of loosely integrating features between its product lines, Jupiter said.

    “Feature integration isn’t Microsoft’s only reason for the Longhorn product alignment. Microsoft is also rapidly working to fully integrate Web services infrastructure into all its products, and will largely achieve this goal with the Longhorn family of product releases,” according to Microsoft analyst Joe Wilcox.

    If Windows XP made strong use of XML in order to integrate features across its server and program software, then Longhorn represents Microsoft’s plans to prepare developers for even more integration of computing devices.

    The idea, organizers and attendees say, is to get developers thinking about developing applications to reflect what computing might look like in 2006, when Longhorn is now expected to ship. That means coding for computing devices that deploy both mouse and keypad as well as digital ink; for smart phones; for computers capable of running applications while multiple videos are also running, thanks to advanced graphics processors already on the market; building for devices that are IP and Web services enabled via Wi-Fi connectivity in the home and office.

    Microsoft organizers said among the topics sprinkled throughout the five-day conference are in-depth information on developments in areas such as Web services, language and tools enhancements, infrastructure advancements, security, mobile applications, tools, and smart client applications.

    In addition, Microsoft said it plans to hold panels on both security and enterprise architecture, with Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business Unit at Microsoft, and Michael Howard, director of Corporate Security at Microsoft and co-author of “Writing Secure Code” slated to speak.

    The architecture symposium will discuss challenges and opportunities for architects building applications in the next wave of computing, and address topics such as Web services and service-oriented architectures.

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