Microsoft has badmouthed its own work on networking and hardware support in Windows XP in order to sell hardware makers on new technologies it has planned for Longhorn, the next version of Windows due late next year.
The company is preparing a host of technologies for Longhorn that it says will make it easier for users to set up wireless networks, connect networked devices and improve the user experience by watching available bandwidth and making it easier to troubleshoot, the software maker said.
But for Microsoft's plans to work, hardware makers have to support the software maker's new specifications in their products. So Microsoft executives at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle called for support of technologies such as Windows Connect Now, Web services for devices and Qwave, all of which were demonstrated.
"In the past we really have not taken as systematic approach as we should have. We put things together not really thinking through the end-to-end scenarios and this is why at times we have failed to deliver," said Jawad Khaki, corporate vice president for Windows networking and device technologies at Microsoft, in a presentation at WinHEC.
"Longhorn ushers in the next generation of software and architecture that enables seamless connectivity," he said. To back up that statement, Microsoft has also joined the WiMedia Alliance, an industry group planning specifications for ultrawideband technology.
Khaki then called Microsoft employees on stage to demonstrate how Microsoft plans to do better in Longhorn. Younus Aftab, a program manager, demonstrated Windows Connect Now to set up a wireless network with a wireless router and a networked camera from D-Link and a Dell laptop.
When installing the wireless access point, instead of the typical setup procedure in a Web browser, the test version of Longhorn used in the demonstration showed a wizard. "We help the user make the right choices and try to make the security automatic and the system and the process consistent," Aftab said.
Other hardware can be added to the network by connecting it directly to the router, which will pop up a similar wizard, or by using a USB (Universal Serial Bus) key with the network settings, as Aftab showed during his demonstration.
While the network setup and connecting of devices worked well, the keyboard on the system Aftab used failed when he first started his demo.
D-Link hardware was also used in a demonstration of the Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol. A new Network Mapper in Longhorn will let users get an overview of the hardware connected to their network and identify problems such as configuration errors, Microsoft officials said.
"Customers can go in and solve a problem themselves, saving a support call," said Dennis Morgan, a lead program manager at Microsoft.
Longhorn will also feature technologies Microsoft has dubbed Qwave, for quality windows audio and video experience. Qwave will monitor the available bandwidths on a user's network. Developers can link to an API (application programming interface) to check available bandwidth before executing a request. For example, Windows Media Player can alert a user that there is not enough available bandwidth to play a high-quality video and instead offer a lower-quality stream.
In a different demonstration, Microsoft showed off Web services for devices, which it first talked about at last year's WinHEC.
Devices that use the new technology will automatically be discovered when connected to a home or company network and can subsequently be installed using the Windows plug and play subsystem as if connected directly to a PC, according to Microsoft.
"We are now treating IP (Internet Protocol) as just another bus," said Tali Roth, lead product manager at Microsoft.