Jim Allchin, Microsoft group vice president of the Platform Group, opened the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2002 Tuesday morning with a keynote address that touted the company's strategic Windows plans and technical vision for the future. Allchin presented a controversial theme in which Windows is the center of innovation in the PC industry, as well as the source of more than $200 billion in yearly hardware, software, and services revenues.

"Innovation isn't about changing the color of a bezel," Allchin said, in a veiled reference to Apple, which has often touted its innovations in the industry. "That doesn't fool too many people." In Allchin's eyes, the PC industry is moving toward a future of "digital everything," where sights and sounds replace words and numbers. The PC, Allchin said, is at the center of this revolution. "The big change \[for PCs\] over the next 5 years is more life immersion," he noted. "Today, people exercise with little portable audio devices and use smart devices in cars. That trend will continue, and the PC itself will become part of the fabric of the way people lead their lives. When I get up in the morning, I don't read \[the\] newspaper; I read the Internet \[on a PC\]."

The next generation of PCs will provide improved capabilities and better power management, support auto-updating, and eliminate reboots, Allchin said. "We have to unclutter the user experience," he said. "We know from studies that people don't like complexity, don't like blinking, don't like it in their face. You should be able to just plug a wire in any jack, and the system should figure out what it is and respond accordingly; it should be noncomplex and more resilient ... Enthusiasts want and will pay for more value."

For the connected home of the near future, Allchin offered several upcoming Microsoft solutions, including Mira, Freestyle, and the Xbox. Further out is the next Windows version, code-named Longhorn, which will further simplify home networking and offer new interfaces for "Media Center" PCs that you'll use in your living room and bedroom, not in your home office.

On the high end, Allchin said that data centers are too complex and require "supermen" to administer them. That situation must change, he said, and although Win.NET Server will offer features that improve the situation, more products are coming in the Longhorn release. "We're very close to delivering the Windows .NET Server family," he said. "It will ship later this calendar year from a release-to-manufacture \[RTM\] perspective and be in customers' hands next year. Separately, we're releasing a Small Business Server 2003 product that will ship at the same time; it's a complete solution for small businesses." Win.NET Embedded Server, an embedded version of the server product, will ship simultaneously with the other releases in the Win.NET Server family.