At WinHEC 2007, Bill Gates kicked off the keynote session and proclaimed that Windows Vista sold 40 million copies in the first 100 days which is twice as fast as Windows XP. That doesn't include all the coupons that were sold with new PCs during Christmas 2006 shopping season but 40 million is still a massive number. Gates even made a comment that this had exceeded the total Apple Mac market share without actually mentioning the word Apple or Mac. The lion's share of that 40 million number went to the OEM PC Maker market so it dwarfed the fact that retail copies of Vista may have been sluggish. Microsoft later explained to me that 78% of all Vista copies sold were the "Premium" edition.
Speaking to a crowd largely comprised of developers, Gates showed off the WOW marketing campaign video on three massive screens with music and spotlights blasting. In fact it was so awe inspiring that it left the entire audience in total silence (sarcasm). The Windows Rally driver technology on the other hand received much warmer reception when routers and digital Wi-Fi cameras were set up in mere seconds over the Ethernet network. In fact I even heard a few gasps when the Wi-Fi enabled digital camera took a picture and it immediately showed up on the PC.
Rally is essentially a plug-n-play installation technology for Ethernet connected devices. These devices were quickly and seamlessly configured in seconds with a simple right-click and install procedure. That means no more searching for the IP address or unfamiliar web interfaces that have their own learning curves, users will now have a standardized native Windows setup user interface. This extra plumbing in Vista not only makes it easier for the developers, but it gives users a much simpler and consistent setup experience. Every device that is "certified for Windows Vista" must have this kind of plug and play functionality.
Gates showed a graph for hardware adoption of x64 (64-bit extensions for 32-bit x86 processors that AMD calls it AMD64 while Intel calls it EM64T). The chart showed the server market leading the way, desktops barely trailing behind servers, and laptops dead last with 2008 as the time frame when all computers sold will be x64 capable. It's also interesting to note that another requirement for having the "certified" moniker is that a device driver must be available for both 32- and 64-bit and a hardware maker can't just target the 32-bit edition of Windows Vista. The "works for Windows Vista" logo on the other hand simply means that the device will work without crashing Windows Vista but not necessarily have all of these new features. Later when I spoke with the Rally product managers I was a little disappointed that the router setup procedure only covered the secure wireless LAN configuration but not other common tasks like ISP (Internet Service Provider) configuration. It would have been nice if it at least exposed configuration settings for Static/DHCP/PPPoE ISP settings. That feature was originally planned with Rally but it missed the Vista cut-off.
Microsoft Home Server also got some stage time in the keynote and HP was one of the partners that were showcased which featured hot-pluggable drives. LaCie was another vendor that already has a line of Network Attached Storage devices that will offer Home Server products. As for pricing, it will probably be in the ball park of LaCie's current gigabit Ethernet 1 terabyte NAS which currently sells in the $840 price range. Microsoft also confirmed that a "system builder" product will be available to build-it-yourself customers which means you'll be able to build a system with your own terabyte storage. The embedded version can only be sold with products that don't have video graphics.
Windows Server 2008 (codename Longhorn Server) showed off some features like device installation restrictions and Information Rights Restrictions for corporate policy enforcement. That means users can be blocked from printing sensitive documents or plugging in USB storage devices. A more granular password policy enforcement mechanism was also shown so that you can implement different policies for different groups of users rather than being forced to set the same policy for all users in an Active Directory domain. There will be more to follow tomorrow on Server 2008.