What the WinHEC? Microsoft revives Windows engineering event

winhec bill gates

Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates speaks during a WinHEC conference in 2007.

Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft, which recently announced the consolidation of several of its conferences, is now going in the opposite direction and resurrecting WinHEC, which was last held in 2008.

WinHEC, first held in the early 1990s, was an annual engineering conference aimed at Microsoft hardware partners, with the goal of helping them better integrate their devices with the company’s operating system and other software.

However, the new WinHEC will be different. For starters, it will not be a big annual event, but rather a series of smaller conferences and workshops held more frequently. The events will be tailored to the different parts of the world in which they will be held.

To highlight this change in scope and purpose, the WinHEC acronym no longer stands for Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, but rather for Windows Hardware Engineering Community.

“WinHEC will bring the hardware engineering community together in one place, providing a unique opportunity to interact with technical and business experts from Microsoft, other partners, and customers, facilitating exchange of ideas, best practices, and opportunities,” wrote Microsoft official Matt Perry in a blog post on Friday.

Keeping hardware partners on Windows

WinHEC events will feature executive keynotes, “deep technical” training sessions, hands-on labs and question-and-answer sessions, all focused on Windows-based hardware, according to Perry.

The target audience includes executives, engineering managers, engineers and technical product managers at hardware companies that are working or want to work with Windows technologies.

The first WinHEC conference will be held March 18 and 19 of next year in Shenzhen, China, where a variety of electrical design, software engineering, system integration and hardware manufacturing companies are based, according to Microsoft.

The decision to bring back WinHEC clashes with Microsoft’s announcement in July that it will fold several conferences into one, including Management Summit, TechEd and individual events for Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project.

That umbrella conference will be held in May of next year in Chicago, and its scope will include products like Lync, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Project, SharePoint, SQL Server, System Center, Visio, Visual Studio, Windows, Windows Intune and Windows Server.

Next week, Microsoft will hold a press conference in San Francisco where it is expected to provide more details about the next version of Windows, and specifically about new features relevant to enterprise customers.

The last major release of Windows—Windows 8—came out in October 2012. However, Windows 8 wasn’t well-received, particularly by enterprise customers, due to its radically redesigned interface, optimized for touchscreen devices like tablets. A revision, Windows 8.1, was released about a year later and addressed many of the main complaints lobbed at Windows 8, but many critics felt it didn’t go far enough.

With the next major version of Windows, reportedly code-named Threshold, Microsoft is expected to make the OS much more friendly to users of desktop PCs, while maintaining the touchscreen features. Microsoft has also said it is in the process of unifying the Windows code base so that it will be easier for developers to create applications that run on Windows smartphones, tablets, PCs and other devices with little need for modification.

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