Microsoft Embedded MVP Chris Muench has some thoughts about day one of WinHEC...

Winhec 2004 - First day

Well, not exactly the first day if you include the welcome reception on monday the 3rd but I would say...close enough:-).

Wow(64 :-)), Microsoft if finally explaining what XP is really about. We all knew that it stood for "Experience" and for sure you needed a lot of "Experience" to work yourself through all the areas of Windows XP but for my mother the "Experience" was not much different from Windows 98. Anyway, the latest after Jim Alchins keynotes it should be clear to all IHVs and ISVs that the IT industry has not yet focused enough on the real customer experience and with a strong call for help to create a better experience by building smarter and easier to use products.

But lets start from the beginning...

After a short introduction to the WinHEC by Brad Carpenter who decided that 7.1 Digital Sound would be the most impressive demo to show in his talk, Jim Alchin stepped on the stage showing some videos of people that have created interesting "experiences" for customers. Interesting to notice is that those videos did not have anything to do with IT, PCs or any electronic experience but rather explain the rare nature of a customer experience: Becoming emotionally attached to a certain task or procedure. A good example Jim was giving is the story of Starbucks: While a coffee normally costs only a couple of cents, people are willing to spend a couple of dollars to "experience" the starbucks lounge and athmospheric environment - the "Starbucks Experience". Talking starbucks as an example Jim explained that he would like to see a similar experience for users working with their PCs. Well, noble words but it only works when all parties, Microsoft, The hardware vendors and Software vendors focus on this rather than trying to exploit new ways to confuse the user with own user interfaces, new proprietary protocols or cheap and noisy hardware designs.

Another very interesting aspect of the three keynotes that launched WinHEC2004 is the aspect that Windows CE based Devices had a much stronger position this year than any year before.

The new MCX (Media Center Excender aka "Bobsled") was mentioned and demonstrated in difference user scenarios in all three keynotes. Jim used the MCX as a proofpoint that MS is working on end-to-end user scenarios for the home "experience".

ATI, who got a golden spot for their marketing plug right between Jim Alchins and Bill Gates keynotes, showed the MCX in their demos because most of the prototype MCXs are based on their Xilleon Chip, a totally integrated Media Chip.

With the sponsor battle between NVidea and ATI fully in progress, ATI showed off their whole new product line including a very exiting new graphic card named "Radeon X800" that is easily 3x faster then their latest 9800Pro. For devices ATI presented their IMAGEON chip that showed a Mobile 3D Application (MotoGP) with about 1mio triangles rendered in 15 frames per second on a Pocket PC like development board. Very impressive and looking at the overall message that ATI is focusing not only on desktop Video chips but also at the embedded and devices market, a good sign for these industries.

While Jim and ATI managed to bring over many new aspects for the industry, I was a little disappointed by Bills speech. Maybe I have seen too many of his speeches over the last couple of months and he is repeating himself a lot. Another interesting aspect of all three keynotes was that Longhorn was not in the focus point of the conference. Do not get me wrong, Longhorn IS the most important technology for MS, but I have the feeling MS found out that LH is away quite some time and that they have to focus first on what there is: XP SP2, W3K SP1, XP Update and Server Update scheduled for next year. Having this in mind it is not too surprising that the announcement that all WinHEC attendees will get a new version of Longhorn was mentioned like a side note during Brads introduction session.

On the second day I will have a more intesive look at the exhibition and show cases that are famous for WinHEC.

- Chris Muench, MVP

Now Back to Mike...

Today (Thursday) is the start of the Windows Embedded sessions at WinHEC - 1:30 - 2:30pm, room 613 is the Windows CE Test Kit session, James Zwygart and I will be presenting an overview of the Windows CE Test Kit and then diving down into a Windows CE 5.0 demonstration, configuring an operating system to include the CETK, adding a custom Stream driver to the o/s (and showing how this integrates with the new Platform Builder), creating a Custom Tux DLL to test the stream driver and then showing the whole thing running - should be an interesting session, especially since half the content is going to be demo time on Windows CE 5.0 - hopefully see you there... if you don't make it, don't worry too much, we've also filmed this session at MS-Studios, this should be available on the web sometime in the next couple of weeks.

- Mike