The Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) was going on for the last few hours and I watched it live online. It isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, and doesn’t have the cool demonstrations that are normally found at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of each year, but there was still some interesting information mentioned that I thought I would cover here.

Bill Gates has been the primary speaker and introduces everyone for each of the demonstrations. To begin the show he talked about Vista’s sales which, as of last week, have consisted of 40 million copies of Windows Vista being sold. He continued to mention that the sales are twice as fast as the Windows XP launch (which we already knew), but he also added that 78% of the sales were from premium editions of the operating system.

He then started to show off some of the Ultra Mobile PC’s and seemed to really focus on those, especially the ones equipped with SideShow. Gates explained how a large focus of Vista was on making the operating system look good on both a 3–inch display and a setup with three 30–inch monitors. Some of the Ultra Mobile PC’s that he talked about can be seen here.

Windows Rally

Next Bill Gates invited Glenn Ward and Jim Barber to the stage to demonstrate Windows Rally. In the demo they showed how easy it was to connect a digital camera, game console, wireless access point, and digital photo frame to the computer in the “time it would take to pop a bag of popcorn.” The hardware devices need to be enabled with this technology, and once it is we should be presented with an effortless way to connect devices. They even went as far as to stream an HD show using a wireless media extender, all of which was setup and connected during the demonstration. The whole time I was thinking that something was bound to fail, but it went surprisingly perfect.

HP Media ServerBill Gates then introduced Steven Leonard who discussed Windows Home Server. He showed an example Home Server device that will be offered by HP (pictured to the right) and how easy it would be to add more storage to the unit.

Steven also went on to demonstrate being able to remotely connect to the server, and it reminded me of accessing files via an FTP, but the interface was much nicer and completely browser-based. He also mentioned that anyone purchasing Windows Home Server would get a free domain name through Windows Live, therefore making it easy to connect to your remote machine.

Windows Server 2008Windows Server Longhorn (view our Beta 3 screenshot gallery) also broke free of its codename today, and is now cleverly called Windows Server 2008. They said that they put a lot of work into coming up with a clever, and distinguishable name which is demonstrated in this brief 1–minute video.

A feature in Windows Server 2008 was demonstrated where an administrator can prevent certain USB devices from being used, such as a flash drive, but still allow things like a USB mouse to be plugged in. This is useful if the server has important data on it that shouldn’t leave the computer, and it was promoted as an alternative to pouring glue in the USB port to prevent users from having access to it.

64-bit AdoptionBill Gates came back to us to talk a little more about the progress of Windows and where the industry is headed. A big focus seemed to be on the convergence over to 64–bit software and operating systems over time, and presented the graph to the right. The graph demonstrates that both the server and desktop market is almost completely capable of running 64–bit operating systems since they have 64–bit compatible processors. The mobile market is still lagging behind a little, but there has been a huge jump from last year and there is expected to be another one by 2008. The reason Bill Gates stressed this so much is because the industry is only “half way there” when it comes to making compatible drivers and such to work on 64–bit operating systems.

Bill Gates left the stage for good this time as he welcomed Craig Mundie. The only cool thing that he really talked about was this virtual checkerboard that was simply a touch-screen device. You could setup real checkers on the board which the touch-screen would recognize as you move pieces and such.

Overall this WinHEC wasn’t nearly as exciting as some of the previous ones have been. Of course that is expected since Microsoft just released a new version of Windows a few months back. No information was given about what the next consumer version of Windows (codename Windows 7) will contain so it is currently left to speculation.

If you missed it, you can watch the WinHEC presentation at 100K, 300K, or 500K. The video is currently not available, but should be shortly for those that have about 2–hours to kill.