Gates: 2002 Had Ups and Downs

In his Comdex keynote, Microsoft's Bill Gates highlights the positives and negatives of 2002.

LAS VEGAS—Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates kicked off Comdex 2002 Sunday night here with a Dickensian look back at the year that was.

And while 2002, as Gates said, "had its share of ups and downs," there were many positives to take away. Running through a short list, Gates highlighted advances in wireless technology, namely Wi-Fi; advances in the price/performance ratio; readability in LCDs; progress in digital camera technology; and low-cost storage.

Gates also praised the industry for its collective work around Web services, efforts he said that are key to driving things like e-commerce far forward. "A year ago there was no industry organization around Web services," Gates said. Today, he added, with the creation of the Web Service Interoperability Group, protocols are being developed that "are some of the best. We need Web services to enable e-commerce. Internet connectivity is not enough."

Also highlighted was server performance. Not surprisingly, he touted Intel Corp.s Itanium architecture as "making huge progress" this year and how it, combined with Microsoft operating systems, gives people high end server performance at relatively low cost.

But the year has had its share of bad times. Attitudes toward capital investment is still low, he said. Technologywise, system management software is not bringing those costs down. "So theres a lot more work to be done there," he said. "The requirements are getting higher and higher."

A final negative, he said, was in broadband deployment. "Its not as fast as many, including myself, thought it would be," he said.

As in virtually all past keynotes, Gates refrained from mentioning his companys long-standing antitrust trial. Nor was any mention made of Comdex producer, Key3Media, which on Thursday announced that it may seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of a restructuring.

No Gates keynote would be complete without a comical video, and he didnt disappoint Sunday. In a humorous spoof of VH1s popular "Behind the Music," Gates presented "Behind the Technology: The Personal Computer." A large cast of celebrities, former industry luminaries and politicians provided a string of very funny cameos, each explaining certain aspects and mile markers of the PC. P. Diddy spoke about how he, being a longtime DOS fanatic, had written a song called C-Prompt; he liked DOS, he said, but not as an operating system. He liked it musically. He never released it, however, because it just didnt feel right.

Others on video included Bill Clinton; John Sculley, who scoffed: "Ohhhhh, a new handwriting technology!"; and NBC TVs Tim Russert, who blamed the sock puppet for the dot-com crash.

Also discussed at the keynote were the companys new Tablet PC OS, new tablets, and new and forthcoming OneNote app.

Going forward, Gates stressed the importance of security, mentioning that Microsoft has stopped several projects to make software more secure. Furthermore, he called for the industry to work more closely with the government on the issue.