WinInfo Daily UPDATE, May 7, 2004

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In the News

- Microsoft Merges Tablet PC Future into Wider Mobile Computing Vision

Short Takes

- Microsoft Releases Longhorn Build 4074 to WinHEC Attendees and MSDN
- Microsoft Verifies, Updates XP Reloaded Plans
- Microsoft Pumps 64-Bit Computing, Asks Partners for Drivers
- Microsoft Refutes Palladium Rumors
- WinHEC 2004: Microsoft Focuses on the Future, Not the Worm-Riddled Present
- HP's Updated Athens PC Concept Continues to Impress
- Know Why Microsoft Doesn't Improve IE? It's Your Fault
- DOJ Fines Gates $800,000

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Merges Tablet PC Future into Wider Mobile Computing Vision

Say what you will about the Tablet PC, Microsoft isn't giving up on the concept. The company plans to meld future versions of this often-misunderstood technology with other mobile-computing devices to ultimately produce a mainstream product. Once seen as laptop alternatives, Tablet PCs will soon give way to a range of mobile PCs that meet all customer needs--a sharp departure from the niche products PC makers released until recently.
"The Mobile Platforms Division \[at Microsoft\] was formerly the Tablet PC Division," Darin Fish, business development manager for the Mobile Platforms Division, said. "We reorganized so we could have a greater focus on the mobile PC, not just the Tablet PC. What we found working on the Tablet PC is that much of the platform work we were doing was benefiting all mobile PCs. The challenge was getting \[that technology\] to all mobile PCs. We're still the same group, and we have one team focused on mobile PC fundamentals, and one that's very focused on pen and ink."
Fish laid out Microsoft's mobile PC schedule for the next 3 years. Tablet PCs, he said, have evolved from 2003's premium ultra-portable notebook PCs to more of a feature of traditional notebook PCs, a trend that will continue through 2005. "We're going to see Tablet PC functionality begin to be incorporated as a mobile feature in mainstream notebook PCs," he said. Starting with the Longhorn product wave in 2006, mobile PCs will adapt to meet every customer need and will slowly overtake the desktop PC form factor. PC makers shipped 38 million mobile PCs in 2003 but Microsoft expects that figure to grow to 63 million units by 2006.
As a software company, Microsoft creates the underlying platform that runs Tablet PCs and other mobile PCs, and the company is predictably planning a series of updates that will dramatically improve that platform for users. Late this summer, Microsoft will ship Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 (code-named Lonestar), a free update for all Tablet PC users that adds a dramatically enhanced Text Input Panel with context-sensitive handwriting recognition and other new features.
Microsoft's Longhorn-era plans are far more exciting, however. Although the company hasn't yet determined which of these features it will include in the base Longhorn product line and which will be available only on Tablet PCs and notebook computers, the list is dizzying. Microsoft will beef up fundamental features, such as power management and multimonitor support. The company will also develop a slew of new functionality, including the following:
- Auxiliary displays--Next-generation mobile devices will include small external displays on their covers that will let you view personal information manager (PIM) data at a glance, without having to open or turn on the device.
- Device and file synchronization--You'll be able to use Longhorn's integrated synchronization control panel to synchronize data between your PC and Tablet PC, notebook computer, PDA, portable audio device, and other portable devices.
- Communication and collaboration--Longhorn will make it easy for you to quickly set up ad hoc wireless networks for file sharing and for discovering people who are connected nearby. The OS will also provide a way to connect to wireless projectors by supplying one-to-one and one-to-many support for wireless connections betweem PCs whose users want to collaborate in real time.
- Mobility Center--Microsoft is planning an Activity Center called Mobility Center for Longhorn that will include all the Longhorn mobility-tuning features in a central location.
- Location awareness--Although the details of how the system will work are currently in flux, Microsoft plans to add location awareness to Longhorn PCs; the system will behave and look differently at home, work, school, and other locations.
- Pen/shell integration--Longhorn will natively support ink file names. You'll be able to click on an icon's name with the stylus and write the file name in your own handwriting. A simple wizard will let you supply examples of your handwriting so that the handwriting-recognition engine will compare only created file names against your writing, not the millions of samples the engine currently uses.
- Flick and Snipper utilities--A new pen-gestures feature (code-named Flick) will let you perform certain actions with a Tablet PC stylus that aren't writing or control-selection activities. For example, you'll be able to set up gestures for copy, paste, back, forward, undo, and delete activities. Another pen utility, code-named Snipper, will bring the Snipping Tool for Tablet PC PowerToy into the base OS.
- Pen Optimized Skin--For a new generation of small, 5" to 8" Tablet PC devices that will begin shipping this year, Microsoft is developing a dashboard that will provide access to all user PIM information on one handy page. The Pen Optimized Skin presents time and calendar information, links to recently accessed documents and applications, the seven most recent unread email messages, the most recent uncompleted tasks, and the links to the most often-used applications. This skin is designed to sit on top of--and generally replace--the basic Windows UI on devices with screens that are too small to display a desktop UI.

As it's available, I'll post more information about these exciting developments, plus photos and screen shots, to the SuperSite for Windows. For now, check out my Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004 coverage for a preview of some of these features.

==== Short Takes ====

An often-irreverent look at some of the week's other stories, by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Releases Longhorn Build 4074 to WinHEC Attendees and MSDN

This week, Microsoft finally released an updated pre-alpha Longhorn build--build 4074--to Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2004 trade show attendees and to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Universal customers (through a download). The first two of what will likely be many Longhorn build 4074 screen shot galleries are available now on the SuperSite for Windows, and I'll post a full review as soon as possible.

Microsoft Verifies, Updates XP Reloaded Plans

Various Microsoft representatives verified this week that XP Reloaded will be a marketing campaign designed to rejuvenate consumer excitement about Windows XP, a product that has evolved dramatically since its initial release in October 2001. Set to run from October to December 2004, XP Reloaded will concentrate on new XP versions such as XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) 2005 and XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, as well as various product updates that will ship in late summer and early fall, including XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the next major version of Windows Media Center, and add-on products such as Portable Media Centers and Windows Media Center Extenders. Microsoft has changed its original plan for separate XP SP2 and XP Reloaded marketing campaigns; instead, the company will now market SP2 as part of the XP Reloaded campaign.

Microsoft Pumps 64-Bit Computing, Asks Partners for Drivers

Calling 64-bit computing the "future of mainstream," Microsoft representatives, including Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, used this week's WinHEC 2004 trade show as a platform to get developers excited about the 64-bit Windows versions that will ship late this year, including XP 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems and Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems. Both OSs will target systems based on AMD64 and Intel x86 64-bit technology and will for the first time offer all the features of their 32-bit brethren (earlier 64-bit Windows versions dropped features such as Windows Media Player--WMP). However, these new 64-bit OS versions will have one major limitation that will--for the time being--limit their appeal. Hardware driver support will be minimal until third-party manufacturers step up to the plate with 64-bit drivers (today's 32-bit drivers won't work). And that means 64-bit systems will be pretty useless for mainstream users, at least for the short term.

Microsoft Refutes Palladium Rumors

This week, Microsoft refuted a report that the company is dropping support for its Palladium technology (also known as Next Generation Secure Computing Base--NGSCB). "NGSCB is alive and kicking," a Microsoft representative said. The technology will still be an optional piece of Longhorn and will require specially made PCs that include security-oriented chipsets. Sorry, rumormongers.

WinHEC 2004: Microsoft Focuses on the Future, Not the Worm-Riddled Present

As many pundits have accurately noted, this week's WinHEC 2004 trade show was long on sweeping, long-term changes that Microsoft executives would like to see happen to the PC platform but short on information about the problems facing today's PCs, including the seemingly unrelenting series of electronic attacks we endure. Part of the problem, I suspect, is the constant delays Microsoft faces with XP SP2, which was original due in the first half of 2004 but was recently rescheduled for late summer 2004 (although I've also heard that July might be the new date). XP SP2 will solve a lot of security problems--and supply a host of compatibility problems--but like Longhorn it's still mired in "future technology" territory as I write this. How about shipping it sometime this century, Microsoft?

HP's Updated Athens PC Concept Continues to Impress

At the WinHEC 2003 trade show, Microsoft and HP introduced the Athens PC with a prototype design that combined hardware and software in ways that hadn't previously been tried. Then, in November, the companies showed off a second-generation Athens PC design that used real-world HP hardware, demonstrating that the prototype was on the way to becoming a reality. This year at WinHEC 2004, the companies displayed Athens PC generation three, dubbed Troy, which now features a Longhorn UI but still retains the prototypical elements of past designs, such as a breakout box for currently unassigned functionality that's similar to a docking bay for a PDA. Microsoft and HP also previewed a Hermes mobile PC prototype, basically a notebook version of the Athens design. These designs are cool stuff and a nice future for business computing if they ever come together.

Know Why Microsoft Doesn't Improve IE? It's Your Fault

For months I've fretted about Microsoft's refusal to improve Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by embracing modern Web standards and adding user-requested features such as tabbed browsing, and I think I've finally figured out the problem. Microsoft won't fix IE as long as it's still the most-often-used Web browser and its nearest competitor has only Macintosh-like market share. And that's the problem, folks. By continuing to use IE, you're letting Microsoft continue its policy of ignoring a product that, frankly, needs a lot of work. So if you're serious about seeing Microsoft improve this aging clunker, maybe the best solution is to start using something else. I recommend Mozilla Firefox.

DOJ Fines Gates $800,000

Microsoft icon Gates has agreed to pay an $800,000 fine for failing to disclose an investment in ICOS, a Seattle pharmaceutical company, according to a US Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement. Because Gates is on the company's board of directors, he's required to comply with federal antitrust premerger-notification requirements. In case the situation isn't clear, this fine has nothing to do with Microsoft's antitrust woes, although people often seem to have trouble separating Gates from the company. Here's how you can tell the difference: Gates is the James Bond villain, and Microsoft is the death ray he uses to threaten humanity.

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