On the first day of WinHEC, the annual conference where PC hardware makers gather to hear Microsoft's product plans, Steve Ballmer outlined his ambition to extend the PC platform.
The opening keynote of WinHEC is yet another high profile task that Microsoft president Steve Ballmer has taken over from chairman and chief executive officer Bill Gates.
One week after announcing a restructuring of Microsoft into customer oriented divisions, he opened WinHEC by repeating a statement he made last week, that Microsoft must move beyond its original goal of bringing, ?a PC on every desktop and every home,? to the empowerment of computing to ?anywhere, any time, any device.?
He went on to announce the Easy PC Initiative, in conjunction with Intel and most of the leading PC vendors, to simplify the design of the PC. The Easy PC Initiative will strive to rid the PC of legacy hardware such as the ISA extension bus.
?We?ve got the get the consumer computing experience to the point that the computer just works,? said Ballmer.
In his keynote, Ballmer addressed industry fears that PC market growth is slowing: ?We see no evidence of that.?
He said the PC industry has great opportunities for growth by moving into new areas: high end servers and workstations in the business arena, simple server appliances for small businesses and easier to use PCs for consumers.
Ballmer addressed a number of perceived threats to the PC dominance ? but brushed them all aside. The PC will not be replaced or superseded by new types of appliances, Ballmer reassured his audience. Rather, these appliances will just be new forms of the PC, Ballmer said, with the traditional PC architecture extending to encompass new applications and new form factors.
One of these new form factors was announced at WinHEC: the Windows based Server Appliance, a dedicated file server for small business, expected to ship in the second half of the year (see earlier story). But the Intel based PC architecture ? and Microsoft Windows ? will also appear in other types of appliances targeted at the home, Ballmer said.
?The PC of tomorrow will be able to be general purpose,? said Ballmer, ?but if the customer wants a single purpose machine...we will give it to him.?
On the opening day of WinHEC, Microsoft also outlined its roadmap for the Windows operating system. However, the repeated delays in the shipment of Windows 2000 have made the company cautious about stating solid release dates.
Microsoft said Windows 2000 is still on track to ship this year, but that no shipment date had been fixed. A 64bit version of the operating system will ship, ?as soon as we can after we ship Windows 2000.?
Windows 98, meanwhile, will receive an update named Windows 98 Second Edition in the Autumn. This will be followed in late 2000 by a new Windows release for consumers based on the Windows 98 code, it was revealed at WinHEC (see earlier story). This is a departure from earlier stated plans to have Windows NT and Windows 98 merge in 2000.
At WinHEC, Microsoft traditionally succeeds in stunning the audience with a volley of product demonstrations. This year, such surprises were few on the first day of the show.
But Microsoft did demonstrate for the first time an early 64bit version of Windows NT 2000 and a four node cluster of servers running Windows 2000 Datacenter Edition.
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