- 16 March, 1998 13:52
Billionaire Bill hit town today to give a series of seminars on his vision of the future. You can bet that with Microsoft's domination of technology, his vision of the future is going to be your reality pretty damn soon. The only thing that could stop it is the US Department of Justice (DoJ), and its most savage recommendation is likely to see Bill in charge of five seriously monopolistic small companies instead of one mega-monopoly.
History surely does repeat itself. The DoJ, or its then equivalent, busted up the steel and oil monopolies 60 years ago, making their owners miserable for about as long as it took them to realise that having a raft of smaller companies makes it easier to dodge tax than it was with one large company. No Rockefeller or Rothschild has needed to stand in the dole queue and none of Bill's kids are likely to be seen there either, even if they have to divest into smaller parts to make up the whole.
It seems that Gates' vision of Windows everywhere, which seemed a tad ambitious at the time, has already been realised in the PC arena. What's a billionaire to do when their vision is realised so rapidly? Well, not everybody owns a PC and it seems as though they aren't going to any time soon. Already we're in replacement mode with PCs and the number of newbies is drying up. Those that can see a need for a PC have already got one and are perhaps in the market for a better one. This doesn't help grow the number of people using Windows. Sure it means they are good for a few bucks every couple of years to upgrade to the new version, but how can Bill get those useless hardware vendors to reach the rest of the masses?
Time for some lateral thinking. If the punters refuse to buy more PCs why not take Windows to them in some other way. Hmm. Now what is it that everybody in the US already has. Cars. And usually two or three per household. Television. And usually two or three per household. But they don't use Windows. Yet.
Enter Windows CE, the stripped down version of Windows NT that runs in 4MB of ROM and is instantly available when you turn on the power. No waiting for boot files to load. Why can't my desktop do that? Ostensibly released to power the new generation of palm-top or hand-held PCs, this is now revealed to be the thin end of the wedge. Let's abbreviate the new wunderkind to WinCE. You can pronounce that any way you like.
With the soon-to-be-released digital TV, Microsoft has a new chance at getting into your lounge room. Digital TV can handle multiple channels in a single broadcast if you are happy with the present picture quality. But you need something in your TV to let you choose these slices of bandwidth or combine all four if you want to watch a wide-screen high resolution version of your favourite movie. Or maybe you want to choose a different language from one of the side transmissions to go with the standard picture.
WinCE aims to be there waiting for you to point and click on the icons that deliver the choices. No longer will you have six remote controls with an instruction manual the size of a phone book for each. You click on the icon for the VCR and WinCE will know what you want. Lots of small children will instantly lose their bargaining power once adults can program their own VCRs.
WinCE's next stop is the dashboard of your car. "Where do you want to go today?" will really mean what it says. You'll tell your car where you want to go today. And it will show you how to get there. And it will know where the traffic jams are and guide you around them. Although once everybody has a WinCE car, the chances of traffic avoidance will reduce accordingly. Maybe these things will chat with each other and work out a way to stop every commuter taking the same shortcut. Heck, Ethernet works that way now.
Of course, guiding you through suburbia is only one attraction. WinCE will also know when your car needs tuning, probably doing a fair job of retuning it while you drive. But the modern engine management systems already do that you say. True, but they don't let you easily fiddle with things using a few pen-clicks. So, the guy in the red sports number thinks he can blast my monster 4WD into the gutter? Point-click-click-drag-click. Watch this! Eat my dust loser! WinCE will put you in control of all that magic under the bonnet. You get to decide whether to conserve fuel or drive around in a two tonne rocket sled.
WinCE in the car will also know what music you like and whether you are alone, and want the volume loud enough to be heard in the next suburb, or if the significant other is in the passenger seat and a more subdued level is appropriate. WinCE probably won't let you drive when you're really inebriated either. Then again, it probably won't let you drive if you haven't paid for this year's upgrade either.
We're all going to be WinCE-ing soon.