Gates spoke on his vision of so-called Seamless Computing, where mobility, Web services, speech and location services come together. And in that regard, Gates announced the availability of Microsoft Speech Server 2004, as well as the availability of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and the Visual Studio 2005 Community technology Preview program. Under the program, Microsoft on Thursday will release a pre-beta version of Visual Studio 2005, which features version 2.0 of the .Net Compact Framework, he said.
Some of the challenges to achieving the goal of seamless computing include complexity, deployment issues, quality and security, Gates said.
"Visual Studio is our answer to this," he said, noting that it is easier to use, integrated, reliable and comprehensive.
"Web services play in [to this vision] and were serious about this and thats why we have a lot of our best people" involved in the Web services standardization space, Gates said.
Visual Studio 2005, codenamed Whidbey, "is a very major release for us," Gates said. "Web services are a key theme here," he said. "For the first time were making it easy to develop Web services."
In fact, Microsoft is making application development require half as much code as it traditionally has in many instances, Gates said. Microsoft is facilitating the reuse of existing code and enabling developers to use the same code base to target devices, departmental applications and enterprise applications.
In addition, the upcoming version of Visual Studio, which is due by mid-2005, includes several new features including many that enable developers to communicate their concerns back to Microsoft.
"Its a big feedback loop," Gates said, including error reporting through the Microsoft Watson tool, and other features that enable developers to have automated feedback to Microsoft. Whidbey also features the edit-and-continue feature popular with developers, as well as support for generics, new libraries, and tools to check the quality of code, known as Prefast.
Gates said the feedback capabilities represent a paradigm that is "a major shift in terms of software development." He added that "connecting up applications to reporting databases is something we want to make easier and easier in the tool."
Jay Roxe, Microsofts product manager for Visual Basic demonstrated some of the capabilities of Visual Studio 2005, and showed how the integrated development environment "supports going out and getting snippets of code you can use and then modifying them a little and use them in a program. Were going to ship more than 500 snippets" of code for handling various routine tasks that developers might use, he said.
"A new element is well have releases on an ongoing basis," Gates said.