The products coming out this year and the next will reflect how the industry has responded to the issues of reliability, cost of ownership and security by making investments to deal with them, he said. "And this is where I think in some ways people are really underestimating what can be done. Its kind of natural if you overestimate what an industry can deliver and then that you cycle back to where you underestimate those things. But I think were on the verge of particular software advances that really address these harsh realities," Gates said."The idea that when you have these Web services, that you can capture the full richness of whats going on with complete visibility to the knowledge workers, to update those things and be notified appropriately of things, that is where you get real benefit of saying that the paper approach really is completely obsolete," Gates said. Microsoft "bet our company on it in the year 2000, calling it our .Net strategy, and theres been great progress on that, in fact, lots of interoperability between the different software stacks, the key specifications all put together, and now we have pioneering customers doing very well with that," he said. Another issue is managing all these things, as the software needs to automatically keep things up-to-date, and "if you say apply this new version for all of these workers the software, the network should make that happen," Gates said. But that took a new generation of software as it did not exist on earlier systems because the numbers just were not large enough, he said, showing a demonstration of PlaceWare, "a Web-conferencing application being used to basically take any Web browser and telephone to have meetings online. "And when we talk about meetings online, were talking about meetings with remote colleagues, with customers, and also with partners. And when I say meetings, Im not talking about just the small one-on-one group meetings that are out there, but also huge group meetings. So were talking about meetings of up to 2,000 people. So a lot of times those would be meetings of a whole division," he said.
One example Gates cited was e-commerce and XML Web services, the infrastructure that allows companies to exchange information for buying and selling and collaborating without their IT departments having to build special applications that only relate to that one particular relationship.