Longhorn overshadows 64-bit at WinHEC

Microsoft executives devoted a lot of speech time to 64-bit computing at the software company's annual hardware show, but most of the buzz centered on the latest update about its next-generation operating system.

SEATTLE -- Microsoft launched 64-bit editions of the Windows client and server this week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, but it was the Longhorn operating system that stole the show, so to speak.

An early look at Longhorn

A screenshot from WinHEC 2005 shows how layered windows will look in Longhorn.

Demonstrations of both technologies were part of Monday's WinHEC 2005 keynote address by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates. Still, Longhorn's features drew more attention and more comments from the crowd of partners, vendors and engineers.

"We've been working with 64-bit," said software engineer Tony Camilli of Hewlett-Packard Co, in Palo Alto, Calif. "For me, it's not earth shattering." He also said he wasn't expecting to hear that Gates' focus would be on making the 64-bit operating system mainstream and relegating the current 32-bit systems to legacy status. Camilli, however, was relieved to hear that some of the file visualization features that had been removed from the Longhorn plans were put back in.

Stephen Semitas of Veritas Software Corp., in Mountain View, Calif., said Microsoft's new file system was good but that "Google beat 'em to the punch" with its desktop search functions.

While a definitive list of features wasn't given, the Longhorn demo gave the audience a chance to experience the operating system's transparent windows, which allow those below to be visible through the borders of those above.

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"I think they're on the right track," said software engineer Gary Pope. "I'm excited for Longhorn. It seems to have a lot of potential."

In spite of the Longhorn buzz and the x64 releases, WinHEC 2005 brought no new announcements from Microsoft. "I didn't learn a lot, but it was nice to see Bill Gates live," said Charles Beauchemin, software engineer with Softimage Co., recently acquired by Avid Technology Inc., in Tewksbury, Mass.

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