Windows 2000: Simplicity Not Speed

Focusing on simplicity rather than speed, the next version of Windows for consumers will be an extension of the Windows 98 code rather than based on Windows 2000, Microsoft President Steve Ballmer told a group convened at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) here on Wednesday.

Ballmer said Microsoft will deliver the new version in 2000 with features that will provide effortless start-up, an improved online experience and more support for digital media.

"We want to simplify the experience and enhance the product focus on key consumer needs," he said.

To that end, Ballmer said Microsoft has joined with Intel to propose the Easy PC Initiative. The initiative, which is supported by PC manufacturers including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Gateway Inc. and Dell Computer Corp., aims to eliminate the ISA bus, Super I/O and "completely hide DOS."

"You have to turn these things on and they just work, and they work all the time regardless of what software you use," Ballmer said. At WinHEC, Ballmer highlighted new PC prototype designs created by Intel that show off a more aesthetic PC for consumers and will use connections such as Universal Serial Bus and IEEE 1394 to connect a host of peripherals.

While Ballmer said the business market holds considerable growth over the next few years, he said the consumer market will comprise 40 percent of PC sales over the next few years. Key in pushing growth in this segment will be reducing the confusion around general PC use and expanding PC functionality into other devices--from handheld PCs to "smart appliances" in networked home, he said.

Simplicity also will make its way down to the small-business market. Ballmer showed off a prototype of a sub-$2000 "server appliance" developed to let small businesses install and set up a server in minutes. The demonstration unit has a built-in network hub and all the software necessary for small businesses to set up basic file, print and Internet sharing. A small LCD screen on the front of the unit functions as a status indicator, so no monitor, keyboard or mouse is needed to run the server. All the set-up takes place on one of the client's PC based on a series of easy to use Wizards developed by Microsoft.

Ballmer said the system does not offer the full set of functions and security of an enterprise-level server but will be useful for homes and small businesses. He said products based on the prototype will ship later this year. On the enterprise side, Bal-mer said that a 64-bit version of Windows 2000%96suitable for Compaq's Alpha and Intel's forthcoming Merced CPUs%96will ship shortly after the 32-bit version of Windows 2000, scheduled later this year.

Computer Retail Week will provide detailed coverage of the industry event, developed to keep hardware manufacturers abreast of trends in the computer market.


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