WinHEC: New Era Begins

At its annual hardware engineering show in Seattle, Microsoft plans to officially announce the availability of Windows XP Professional x64 and Windows Server 2003 x64, as well as a new preview build of Longhorn in anticipation of beta release this summer, according to the company.

Microsoft also is expected to launch a new Longhorn device driver kit to encourage development of new form factors and to demonstrate three prototype hardware devices that highlight new features of its latest operating systems, including a planned next-generation Tablet PC, code-named Kinesis and based on Longhorn.

Two years ago at WinHEC, Microsoft showed off a prototype PC dubbed Athens that focused on collaborative computing for information workers. Last year, the spotlight focused on the Home Concept PC based on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. At the show this year, Microsoft will shine the light on new x64 and Longhorn systems and smaller form factors for mobile workers that live at the edge of the network.

Gates, for instance, will demonstrate a "mainstream mobility" machine that is extremely thin and lightweight, sporting a 12-inch screen and integrated optical drive, said Greg Sullivan, lead product manager for the Windows client. This Kinesis device, scheduled for availability in 2006, will run Longhorn and will be "instant-on, instant-use [and] feature nonvolatile RAM," he said. The screen will slide up and down to convert from tablet to the laptop form factor easily, he added.

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Microsoft also plans to demonstrate a new auxiliary display feature in Longhorn that will allow instant access to PowerPoint presentations and the ability to display e-mails and calendar info from displays embedded in these new form factors without booting up the PC.

Beyond Longhorn, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft also will showcase a new "carry-everywhere" form-factor device weighing from 1 pound to 2 pounds Sullivan said. "This is a mockup prototype [and is] ultramobile, superthin, superlight, always-connected and will support touch input and natural language stuff."

Microsoft also plans to unveil a two-tiered Windows logo program for system builders. The Gold logo will signify a system that takes advantage of new Longhorn capabilities such as the Avalon graphics subsystem, and the Silver logo will certify a system's basic compatibility with Longhorn.

BARBARA DARROW contributed to this story.