In a keynote speech Wednesday here at PC Expo, Ballmer demonstrated Windows running on almost every type of system -- from servers to desktops to thin clients, and handhelds. The theory is to have "Windows Everywhere," Ballmer said.
"Windows Everywhere was pretty silly in 1985, 1986, 1987," he said. "But here in 1997 we can talk in a meaningful way about Windows Everywhere."
Microsoft's scheme is to have users run Windows as their operating system no matter what type of system they run or how thin they want their client to be. Ballmer explicitly contrasted this approach to the vision of the Network Computer thin client presented by Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., and IBM, which would have users run Java applications and browsers on the clients.
"A browser is not thin," he said. Countering Java's touted portability, he said, "Windows Everywhere is in part our write once, run everywhere strategy. But we're not starting from scratch. The glass here is at least half-full."
Ballmer also gave the first public demonstrations of previously announced technology which would enable the Windows Everywhere approach, such as a streamlined application-installation system code-named Darwin. This server-based Microsoft Management Console snap-in builds an application configuration based on a user's profile, and with a few clicks installs the application on a client.
He also demonstrated another use for the multi-user server, code-named Hydra, that Microsoft is building with the help of Citrix Systems Inc. technology. Microsoft will provide clients for Windows 3.1 systems, allowing older hardware such as 386s to tap into newer 32-bit applications running on servers. This initiative, which Ballmer called "Windows on Windows" would allow companies to extend the life spans of old systems.