WinHEC 2007: A Continued Emphasis on Vista, not the Future

After two days at WinHEC 2007, Microsoft's latest Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, one thing is clear: Microsoft has no intention of doing anything other than bolstering the success of its recently-released Windows Vista operating system. At past WinHEC shows, the company emphasized future technologies. But this year, perhaps because of its timing right after the Vista consumer launch, Microsoft is all about the past.

"We've never had a WinHEC this close to a major Windows launch," Windows Client Partner Platform Group Director Dave Wascha told me at the show. "For most people, Windows Vista IS the future."

Microsoft has touted a lot of facts and figures to prove that Vista is indeed a huge success, despite a growing perception, especially in tech-centric blogger circles, that the new OS is stumbling out of the gate. As reported previously, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced Monday that the company had sold 40 million copies of Windows Vista since its January consumer launch. And despite the fact that this number is pretty obvious given the number of PCs that have been sold in that time period, many continue to question that number, and Microsoft's sincerity.

Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Nash dedicated his 30-minute keynote address on Wednesday to addressing how Vista has performed, from a compatibility perspective, to previous Windows versions. He noted that Windows 2000 had 350 total drivers available at launch, compared to 12,000 for XP and a whopping 33,000 for Windows Vista. And device support is improving dramatically over time: When Vista launched to businesses in November 2006, there were 1.5 million supported devices. That figure jumped to 1.7 million in January and 1.9 million today.

Additionally, 48 of the top 50 consumer applications are now Vista compatible, and all five of the top five consumer security applications are Vista compatible as well. The message here is clear: Vista is far more compatible with the hardware and software out there than were previous Windows versions, despite what you might be reading online. You can find out more about this topic in my "Hot or Not" editorial on the SuperSite for Windows.

Microsoft's server sessions were a bit more forward looking, if only because the next Windows Server version, Windows Server 2008, won't ship until late 2007. Microsoft noted that it will ship a detuned version of its hypervisor-based virtualization solution for Windows Server 2008 within 180 days of that product's completion. Looking ahead, the company plans to ship new small business, medium business, and storage server products in 2008. And the next interim release of Windows Server, currently dubbed Windows Server 2008 R2, is on the docket for 2009. "It's a predictable rhythm," Microsoft general manager Bill Laing said in his own keynote on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich provided a surprisingly humorous and compelling keynote address Tuesday as well, focusing on Windows Server kernel internals. An accomplished speaker and arguably the most knowledgeable person on earth about Windows internals, Russinovich talked up a number of highly technical issues. But go figure, it was the best talk I've seen so far this week.

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