Bill Gates unveils new PC innovations

…during his opening keynote at the 12th annual Windows® Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC). Gates showed the new PC prototype as just one example of the type of innovation required toaddress the needs of users — innovation that is only possible when hardware and software are developed together.

Co-developed with HP and code-named “Athens,” the advanced PC prototype represents an evolution of the PC as a center for communication and collaboration, one that simultaneously simplifies PC operations while merging all forms of communication — including next-generation voice, video and text messaging — into a consistent, streamlined design.

“The hardware industry and Microsoft are leading the next wave of PC development by creating unprecedented levels of synergy between hardware and software,” Gates said. “The result will be innovative products that improve the way our customers work, communicate, learn and are entertained. The ‘Athens’ PC prototype is just one example of the amazing things that are possible when hardware and software companies collaborate deeply on new designs.”

“In a world where technology is increasingly commoditizing, the need for innovation that solves real business problems and creates a richer customer experience is stronger than ever,” said Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive officer of HP. “Just as we did with the Tablet PC and the Media Center PC, HP and Microsoft are creating a new standard of joint innovation in hardware, software and product design. The ‘Athens’ prototype PC will empower business customers with an entirely new class of business technology that provides a seamless and natural experience for communications and collaboration.”

The “Athens” PC prototype provides significant productivity improvements for information workers through features:

  • Integrated telephony functionality with wireless handset and headset provides users with one central communications unit, allowing them to communicate and collaborate more efficiently.
  • A high-DPI flat panel display improves readability with a horizontal, 16:10 aspect ratio for working comfortably with multiple documents on the screen.
  • Intuitive and consistent system controls makes the PC user experience more seamless.
  • Improved PC fundamentals such as truly quiet operation, appliance-like availability and high-quality audio allows for new PC placement locations.

Gates Highlights New Hardware and Software Synergy

Highlighting the new level of synergy between hardware and software, Gates also unveiled a new set of cross-product navigation controls, currently code-named “Xeel.” This cluster of hardware components and software interactions builds on the success of the mouse wheel to simplify content navigation and provide consistency across Microsoft® Windows-based devices such as Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs, Windows Powered Smartphones, Windows Powered Smart Displays and everyday objects based on Microsoft’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). Users will benefit from increased ease of use and productivity, while hardware manufacturers will have the opportunity to differentiate on form factor, styling and ergonomics without affecting functionality.

In addition, Gates discussed Microsoft’s Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) as the company’s vision for the future of secure computing under the Trustworthy Computing initiative. NGSCB is an innovative software/hardware architecture for a future version of Windows that will deliver new capabilities for security, privacy and system integrity, and is another example of how hardware and software collaboration is a requirement for advancing the PC platform. WinHEC 2003 marks a major milestone for NGSCB as Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Security Business Unit, will unveil the first public demonstration of NGSCB alpha code in the opening session of the Trusted Platforms Technologies track.

For the enterprise market, Gates showcased a concept of the Dynamic Data Center (DDC), jointly developed with HP. A DDC is a combination of industry-standard servers, storage and networking hardware that is connected in a prescribed manner and dynamically provisioned and centrally managed. The concept is a significant milestone in Microsoft’s Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) and represents the companies’ long-term collaboration to enable customers to harness the power of industry-standard hardware, maximize the value of their information technology systems, and achieve new levels of simplicity and automation.

Underscoring the latest advances in software/hardware performance, Gates demonstrated how Windows 64-bit technologies will provide customers with new levels of performance and new capabilities for leading-edge applications. Using Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003 and Intel Itanium 2-based workstation from HP, Gates showed how Paragon Imaging’s ELT/5500 satellite imaging application benefits from the memory addressability and performance of 64-bit systems. Gates also demonstrated how a prerelease version of a Windows 64-bit operating system with an AMD Opteron processor using Mental Images’ Mental Ray rendering application enable new scenarios in the production and delivery of digital media content that will bring 64-bit computing into new realms.

Working With the Industry

Highlighting the continued growth for smart, connected devices, Gates announced the new low pricing and updated packaging for Windows CE .NET 4.2. This latest version of Windows CE helps device manufacturers reduce development costs and time to market by using a single operating system across a broad range of devices. As part of this, Gates introduced a new low-cost license, Windows CE .NET 4.2 Core, which now enables device manufacturers to utilize the powerful real-time, built-in networking and small-memory characteristics of Windows CE in their low-cost devices. Windows CE .NET 4.2 will be available June 1 through Microsoft embedded distributors with the new Core offering starting at an estimated retail price of $3 (U.S.). Gates also highlighted the newly expanded free Evaluation Kit (shipping and handling charges apply) and the free downloadable Emulation Edition of Windows CE .NET, which allow developers to build and distribute the operating system for noncommercial usage in an effort to help promote rapid innovation and foster cooperation throughout the developer community.

In an effort to facilitate and promote the incredible level of collaboration between software and hardware companies, Microsoft also announced a new community for Windows hardware and driver developers intended to deliver compelling user scenarios and quality products: Windows Hardware and Driver Central (WHDC). WHDC includes a centralized Web site — — with technical papers, specifications, toolkits, test kits, newsgroups, logo program information, newsletters and an Ask-the-Experts online service.

“WHDC is one of the latest examples of the Microsoft commitment to the hardware and driver developer communities,” said Tom Phillips, general manager of the Windows Hardware Experience Group at Microsoft. “Our goal is to provide a unified set of tools and infrastructure that will be used by industry-leading hardware and driver developers to deliver compelling customer products that set new levels of quality and innovation.”

WinHEC 2003 features four additional keynote addresses, from Dean Kamen, founder of Deka Research & Development Corp. and inventor of the Segway Human Transporter; Jen-Hsun Huang, president, CEO and co-founder of NVIDIA Corp.; Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Platforms Group at Microsoft; and David Thompson, corporate vice president of the Windows Server (TM) Group at Microsoft.

Attendees also have their choice of dozens of technology sessions with details about new technologies, road maps, case studies, and tips for hardware, firmware and driver quality. WinHEC 2003 offers approximately 150 hours of hardware and driver content, nearly 50 percent more than have been offered at previous WinHEC conferences. The sessions will provide industry partners with an in-depth look at new developments and possibilities for the Windows platform from Microsoft engineers and other industry experts. More information is available at the Microsoft WinHEC Virtual Press Room at

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: