As more details of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system trickle out at WinHEC 2001, Greg Sullivan, a lead product manager for Microsoft, said the new OS will eventually replace all of the company's previous operating systems. The release of a Beta 2 version of XP was announced Monday at WinHEC, Microsoft's annual hardware developers' conference. By the end of the year, Microsoft will roll out a Windows XP Home Edition, which will eventually replace the recently released Windows Millennium Edition, Sullivan said. A 64-bit edition of XP will also arrive later this year for client terminals attached to 64-bit servers as well as an embedded version of XP, Sullivan said. The server-based components of Windows XP will likely ship sometime in 2002, Sullivan said. Although Microsoft will continue its support for Windows 2000, Sullivan said the upgrade path for Windows 2000 is Windows XP Professional and that companies should not wait to begin working with Windows XP, even if they continue to deploy Windows 2000. In the same way many users continue to run older operating systems like Windows 95, users are not required to upgrade to XP. "If you are evaluating Windows 2000 right now, even if you're well down the path of installing [Windows] 2000, keep going. Windows 2000 and XP are designed to coexist," Sullivan said. But a unified operating system across all devices is Microsoft's ultimate vision, said Tom Laemmel, a product manager for the Windows consumer division in Redmond, Wash. Sullivan said Windows XP is "not the next version of Windows, but a whole new Windows". However, the core kernel of the XP is essentially the Windows NT kernel, according to Sullivan. The advantage of having a single Windows NT-based operating system running every type of computer system is simplicity, explained Laemmel. "With XP, companies have one platform to support, which is more reliable and [supports] all of the connected peripherals, all without the legacy issues from the earliest PC days," Laemmel said. Wireless connectivity will also be greatly improved by an industry transition to XP, Laemmel said. Users moving from one 802.11 wireless LAN to another will be recognized faster if both networks are running XP, making it easier for users to roam from one network to another, access permitting. Beta bounces in In his keynote address on Monday at the conference, Bill Gates, the company's chairman and chief software architect, announced the availability of Beta 2 of Microsoft Windows XP operating system and named a number of companies aligned with the software giant in the development of the company's Tablet PC platform. During the keynote, which kicked off Microsoft's annual hardware developers' conference, Gates also called on developers to begin adding serverlike fault tolerance to PC platforms. Gates said Windows XP was "the most important release since Windows 95. It's a huge change, it's an important change." CD-ROMs carrying the beta version of the new operating system were distributed to developers at the conference. "XP represents the realization of a dream Microsoft has had for a long time: To take a very rich and powerful code base and have that code base for the entire PC market place," Gates said. Although the PC platform has advanced by leaps and bounds, Gates told developers that the PC has yet to evolve to the level where it can provide real-time brainstorming and collaboration across user groups, and that as far as PC communications go, "we still have the separation between the phone and the screen." For Microsoft, Windows XP represents the opportunity to provide a unified PC operating system that lets developers merge all current PC applications and PC capabilities into a simpler experience, "moving from making [advanced tasks on a PC] possible to making them effortless," Gates said. "I have a lot of enthusiasm for this new year. The real promise of how a PC is being used is just beginning to be unlocked," Gates said. "We can make the PC more than twice as valuable than it is today." Gates also oversaw a demonstration of the company's Tablet PC and listed the partner companies involved in the development of the device. Compaq, Acer, Fujitsu, Intel, Sony, Transmeta, and Toshiba were named as leaders in the Tablet PC's development, Gates said. The Tablet PC, which runs the Windows XP operating system, is a notebook-sized computer with a pen-based interface, USB plug and play capabilities, and wireless options. Users write directly to the page-sized screen and can edit, add, and color text or drawings without converting a user's actual handwriting to a font. "[The Tablet PC] really shows how the PC industry can get all of its elements coming together, from the chip manufacturer, the operating system, to the software developers all jumping on board," Gates said. Gates also called on developers to begin adding serverlike fault tolerance and redundancy into PCs, something the PC platform has almost always lacked because of the need to reboot after a system failure. "We will begin to design in fault tolerant systems," Gates said. "We are building fault tolerance into Windows, we are building [fault tolerance] into the development tools." On hand at the conference, Dr Markus Leberecht, a staff engineer at Force Computers in Munich, Germany, said he believes the vision of a fault-tolerant PC is realistic. "I think it's certainly possible. It is a lot more complex than many people would like to have it," Leberecht said. "The key point is to have a complete framework. There is no single solution to high availability."