WinHEC 2016: Highlights from the Annual Microsoft Hardware Engineering Community Conference

WinHEC 2016: Highlights from the Annual Microsoft Hardware Engineering Community Conference

Late last week Microsoft held their annual Windows Hardware Engineering Community conference, aka WinHEC, in Shenzhen, China.

During the kick off keynote, Microsoft's Terry Myerson and Alex Kipman told everyone about Project EVO and the plans for mixed reality on devices running the Windows 10 Creators Update. In addition, Myerson also revealed Microsoft's new partnership with Qualcomm to deliver the full version of Windows 10, including emulation to run x86 desktop programs, to devices running on Qualcomm's Snapdragon ARM chips.

While those items got all the big headlines last week, there were several other sessions during the two day conference that revealed previously unknown details relating to the Creators Update for Windows 10.

Microsoft has posted the below listed videos on their WinHEC 2016 Channel 9 page and they can be viewed on demand at anytime but we went ahead and watched them for you and grabbed the highlights and key details.

Here are links to those videos, their Channel 9 description, and then a snapshot of what is provided during the sessions along with what I consider to be the big takeaway.

Graphics and Gaming Investments in Windows 10 Creators Update

(Asobo Mongwa; 17 minutes and 47 seconds)

"In this session, we will discuss the investments that accrue toward graphics and gaming in the Windows 10 Creators Update including Xbox Wireless, High Dynamic Range, Wide Color Gamut support and DirectX 12."

  • PC Gaming Vision and Opportunity
  • Games Marketing
  • Xbox Wireless
  • Graphics Investments in Windows 10 Creators Update
  • Advanced Color: HDR and WCG

Big Takeaway

Hardware drivers will be delivered alongside of game downloads for PCs to reduce issues. I imagine for the PC gaming crowd, who love to control their hardware and what drivers are in use, this will become a point of contention and control will be very important to them.

According to Microsoft, a new game download will result in a Windows Update prompt to install/download minimum drivers necessary to produce a good gaming experience.

Cortana and the Speech Platform

(May Ji; 49 minutes and 52 seconds)

"This session introduces the new exciting features in Cortana and the speech platform, that allow users to engage with Cortana from across the room, and ensure that Cortana is ready to assist users even when the Windows device is in modern standby.  Come and learn how these features enhance existing Cortana scenarios, and how you can implement them on your devices."

  • What is Cortana
  • Cortana, what can she do?
  • The Audio and Speech Platform

Big Takeaway

First - Cortana needs to continue to grow into new markets. Currently Microsoft's personal digital assistant is only available in 13 markets around the world as of December 2016.

Cortana Markets as of December 2016

Image from Microsoft

Second - Any Internet of Things devices with screens will be able to access Cortana when the Creators Update is released next Spring.

Third - In the Creators Update Cortana will gain the ability to hear and use voice commands from across the room (Far-field - approximately 4 meters) and Wake on Voice (WoV) when a device uses Modern Standby.

These are the features that puts nearly any device running the Creators Update in competition with products like Google Home and Amazon's Echo devices.

Windows 10 IoT: Build trusted, easy-to-manage, and interoperable devices

(Carla Forester; 44 minutes and 8 seconds)

"Learn about the latest Windows 10 IoT features, silicon support, and tools available for you to easily design and build trusted, productive and connected IoT devices for any industry application.  This session will provide an overview of Windows 10 IoT editions with a focus on IoT Core for building smart things, gateways, and other intelligent edge devices.  In addition, the session will include an overview of why you should take advantage of the merger of the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and AllSeen Alliance in building your next IoT devices to a unified standard with IoTivity and OpenT2T."

  • IoT Opportunity
  • Microsoft IoT Strategy
  • Windows 10 IoT

Big Takeaway

Covers the overall Windows 10 IoT ecosystem with some good insight that can help you understand the approach Microsoft is taking with IoT and why they think it is critical to businesses and users.

Also highlights some key new features that will come to Windows 10 IoT with the Creators Update including:

  • Device Guard for IoT Devices
  • Microsoft Account log-in support
  • Improved device management
  • Cortana
  • Power Management
  • Azure IoT Gateway SDK integration
  • IoTivity Support
  • WiFi-Direct Connectivity
  • Low level USB Function mode

Windows Holographic Technical Session

(Mingfei Yan; 48 minutes and 26 seconds)

"This session will mobilize the hardware industry to maximize Windows Holographic market success through innovative PC designs that showcase Microsoft as the platform leader in Mixed Reality."

  • Windows 10 Mixed Reality Platform & User Experience
  • Mixed Reality Content
  • Hardware Ecosystem Diversity

Big Takeaway

This presentation includes images of the user experience in the Windows 10 Creators Update when a Head Mounted Display (HMD) is connected to a system. There is also much more information about what type of mixed reality content and how Microsoft will deliver that content to users through the Windows Store. The six degrees of freedom information is very interesting along with background on the Inside-Out tracking that Project EVO will use with its HMDs and the Windows 10 Creators Update.

There is a demo of setting up the Creators Update mixed reality environment at about the 33 minute mark.

Initially the mixed reality environment of the Windows 10 Creators Update will be supported in eight countries including USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, China, Japan, and Australia. More are expected to be added in next years Holiday season.

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But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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