What Is Bill Gates Thinking? - Page 5

-or-Break Products">

With Longhorn being pushed back, what are the make-or-break products for Microsoft before then?

From an IT department, products like SMS, MOM, which is Microsoft Operations Manager, and Active Directory are kind of the infrastructure-level things that end users ideally dont even know that theyre there. They just know you turn on your system and its up to date. You log in from anywhere on the network and you get the right set of privileges. Those infrastructural things that require less manpower and let people deliver a higher degree of reliability in their systems and have this auditability to know whats going on.

For a lot of our customers, the basic dialogue is, hey, if your infrastructural products can save us cost, let us buy the industry-standard servers, let us use cheaper communications, reduce operational costs, simplify development costs. And particularly these infrastructural products, if they can do that, then fine, that will free up some of our budget to look at wireless and tablets and Web service applications and those things. But part of the bargain is that you, Microsoft, have to show us how technology is simplifying some existing problems in order for us to put onto our plate some of the productivity-oriented things that people know will come.

And so thats the typical dialogue, helping them look at their environment, say, OK do they have too much variety, do they have the right automatic tools, are they employing best practices and then translating that into reliability and cost-saving issues? And then typically, as we go through that, theyll say great, lets use that and deploy Office 2003. Lets use that and move up from file servers to Sharepoint servers that let collaboration be done in a new way. Lets try out and do a pilot of Live Meeting, do a pilot of tablet. And so our ideal customer is one whos got a mix of those innovative projects and those infrastructural reform projects going on in parallel.

Im really interested in modeling, and at your financial analysts meeting last summer you made the comment that modeling would be big in Microsofts tools. Im also pretty impressed with the Eclipse toolset and how theyre going about supporting modeling. Do you think that makes Eclipse more of a viable competitor to Visual Studio?

IBM has their Rational group with Rose, and they have some Eclipse stuff. So as is often typical, they have multiple, semi-overlapping approaches there.

Modeling is the future, so every company thats working on this I think its great, and I think there are some real contributions that can be made. You know UML [Unified Modeling Language] made the meta-models a little complex, so I dont think UML alone is the answer. Web services forces you to think modeling. And thats part of the good thing about it. And the promise here is that you write a lot less code, that you have a model of the business process. And you just look at that visually and say here is how I want to customize it.

So even a business could express in a formal, modeled way, not just scribbling on paper, how the business process is changing over time or how its different from other companies. So instead of having lots of code behind that, you just have visual, essentially model, customization.

So, I think we believe that. There are certainly some people from IBM who have that same vision, and I think itll be healthy competition between the two of us because todays modeling products fall short. Thats one part of Visual Studio 2005, that we do have some neat things coming along that will be part of it that we havent shown completely. Weve shown a lot of it, but Visual Studio 2005 is very broad.

So youre talking about Whitehorse?

Yeah, exactly. Thats the codename. But some of the Whitehorse stuff we havent shown publicly, like how it lets you visually design Web services and lets you visually design the relationship between the application and the deployment, this thing we call the Dynamic Systems Initiative, where the developer says, OK, what sort of resources are needed to run the application. And then the person who runs the application just binds that model to the actual execution environment. And then the developer can see if there are any performance issues or problems because they have this common model.

So, modeling is pretty magic stuff, whether its management problems or business customization problems or work-flow problems, visual modeling. Even the Office group now really gets that for document life-cycle rights management, that this visual modeling will be key to them. Business intelligence, where you let people navigate through things, is another area where modeling could be used. Its probably the biggest thing going on. And both Visual Studio and Office need to be on top of that. Theres a guy at Microsoft, Bill Baker, whos our business intelligence guy whos been promoting these ideas very successfully.

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