Road Ahead Excites Gates

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-07-24

Road Ahead Excites Gates

REDMOND, Wash.—While the technology industry experienced a boom in the late 1990s that is unlikely to be repeated again during his lifetime, there are a number of exciting challenges ahead, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said Thursday.

Addressing a group of financial analysts and media at the Microsoft campus here, Gates said he is excited about and focused on six big things going forward.

"Management capability; integrated storage; our new Windows File System [WinFS], which will draw on the file system and database expertise including rich search; a workflow that allows business processes to be drawn up in an easy way; business intelligence that builds in the XML platform; model-based programming; and speech-language and the natural-based interface are all things Im excited about," he said.

Many of these things will show up in releases before the next major Windows upgrade, code-named Longhorn. "We do not yet know the timeframe for Longhorn, but it will involve a lot of innovative and exciting work.

"There will be major advances in the user interface … Web services will be built in as part of the interface," Gates said. "Longhorn will be built around scenarios, and making these as easy as possible. Longhorn is not just a release of the Windows client, but it will also involve Office and our server products. Everything at Microsoft is built on and designed to take advantage of that."

Addressing the debate about whether IT is still important, Gates argued that it is. Software is dependent on the vast improvements taking place in hardware. "Despite the general atmosphere here, the hardware advances are coming full speed, like the move from 32-bit to 64-bit. We have the empowerment coming through wireless. Everything is getting less expensive and more capable and accessible. Our partnerships with the hardware vendors remain very strong," he said.

Microsofts special activity is software breakthroughs. This includes the Internet with Web services; a dynamic datacenter and desktop management software; monitoring and feedback tools; unlocking business information; Trustworthy Computing; and better e-mail with sharing.

"We want your work and personal e-mail to be available to you at the same time. So weve been working on taking Outlook and linking it up to the back-end Hotmail system," Gates said. "We have developed the Microsoft Outlook Connector for MSN, which will show up in MSN 9.0, due for release later this year. It allows users to communicate with everyone from the Outlook client, which also has full offline support."

A preview of Outlook Connector was shown, which will use Outlook to manage both work and personal accounts simultaneously from the MSN and Exchange servers. E-mails from a personal Hotmail or MSN account can be dragged into Outlook, involving both the MSN and Outlook servers.

New MSN sharing functionality with the next version of MSN will also allow people to share information on their work and personal calendars with others using MSN.

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Gates said that Microsoft has also increased its research and development budget by 8 percent to $6.8 billion.

In addition, he spent some time talking about the companys new file system, WinFS, designed for the next-generation Windows products. It involves understanding things like meetings and appointments, with schema created that define how those things work, Gates said.

Microsofts quality and value focus going forward includes improving things like online crash analysis and corporate error reporting. Talking about spam, Gates garnered a laugh from the audience by showing some of the spam hes received, which included solicitations telling him how he could get a university degree, reduce his debt and improve his finances as well as pay pennies a day for legal services. "Sometimes they get it wrong and dont reach the target audience," he quipped.

Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsofts Windows Platform Group, told attendees here that Microsoft has shipped 130 million licenses of Windows XP and, as of the fourth quarter, its XP Professional product mix rose 10 percent to 70 percent.

But there is still plenty to do, with 350 million PCs still running NT 4 and older versions of the operating system and many people questioning whether they should upgrade. "In the next fiscal year we will release the second service pack for Windows XP, which will mostly be not about new features, although there will be a few—a new version of Media Center, an update of the Media Plus pack, as well as an update of the Tablet PC," Allchin said.

Turning to the Longhorn release, Allchin said the next step will be at Microsofts Professional Developer Conference, to be held in Los Angeles in October, where Longhorn developer preview CDs will be handed out. "That will be followed by a broad first beta next year," he said.

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