WinHEC to feature portability, networks

Microsoft, Intel, and other companies will lay out their hardware road maps for mobile computing, home networking, and more at this week's WinHEC show in Los Angeles.

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Microsoft, Intel, and other companies will lay out their hardware road maps for mobile computing, home networking, and digital imaging at this week's WinHEC show in Los Angeles.

The conference, which starts tomorrow, has in the past been used by Intel and Microsoft to lay out platform strategies, such as the PCXX standard--which generally outlines the standard features for next year's computers--as well as other long-term recommendations.

Last year, for example, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates stressed the importance of developing high-speed Internet access options and announced that Windows 98 was to be the last DOS-based operating system, and that all future consumer releases would be based on the NT kernel. This year, no such formal predictions are expected.

In their place, industry groups such as the Mobile Advisory Council are announcing proposals for long-term notebook design recommendations. MAC, which is made up of notebook and peripheral makers like 3Com, Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Texas Instruments, and others, will announce several administrative milestones, such as its new non-profit status and newly approved by-laws, as well as several ongoing workgroup proposals, said co-chair Rebecca Krull, of 3Com.

The group's top priorities are hammering down docking station recommendations and completing a white paper on removing older port technology, Krull said. MAC is also working on recommendations to software and hardware vendors on improving battery life.

"Battery life is something that everyone complains about," she said. The group is working closely with Intel and Microsoft to develop recommendations for software applications that use notebook chips more efficiently, prolonging battery life.

MAC and Microsoft are teaming up to hammer out these issues, Krull said. "Microsoft is pleased with the progress of the Mobile Advisory Council in advancing the mobile computing platform," said Carl Stork, general manager of hardware strategy for Microsoft, in a statement. "We look forward to collaborating with council members on important mobile technology issues."

Pushing home networking
Microsoft is also expected to make announcements regarding home networking, including news about its Universal Plug-N-Play technology, sources say. Similar to Sun Microsystems' Jini, Universal Plug-and-Play is designed to network individual devices.

"Home networking fits into the larger theme of advancing the platform," said a Microsoft spokesperson. The company will be pushing its "spontaneous networking" concept, which "encompasses more than just home networking."

Microsoft will be joined by partners like 3Com and Diamond Multimedia, who are expected to support the new initiative which will be accompanied by a new Web site, UPNP.org, sources say.

Many analysts are skeptical about the home network hype.

"Home networking is a technology in search of a market," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "We're talking about people who can't get the 12:00 to stop flashing on their VCRs and we expect them to drop this technology into their houses?"

The home networking push is drawing many high-tech heavyweights. Intel is expected to roll out a line of such products at a different event tomorrow in San Mateo, California. (See related story.)

Additionally, Advanced Micro Devices will also be supporting the Universal Plug-and-Play initiative, demonstrating some of its home phone line networking products. AMD's director of the computation products group Fred Webber will also detail advances in the K-7 chip platform.

3Com will be demonstrating its new co-branded home networking equipment, developed with Microsoft, which includes new phone line and wireless technology.

Security news a lock
Security issues are also expected to take center stage at WinHEC: Microsoft president Steve Ballmer will also discuss PC security as it relates to software piracy, a Microsoft pet cause. Ballmer will speak about digital copyright management and entertainment content protection during his keynote speech tomorrow.

Additionally, Intel vice president Pat Gelsinger will expound on the company's platform road maps during his keynote speech. Gelsinger is also expected to talk about new high-speed connections subsystems, improving server performance, and the importance of PC security.

Finally, Microsoft and its partners are also expected to hype advances in digital imaging-Microsoft's Stork will devote time during his keynote to discussing growing demand for digital imaging technology in the consumer market.