Gates Takes Pervasive Computing from DOS to Digital Devices

At the Microsoft Mobility event keynote, the company's chief software architect expands the .NET vision, puts Windows XP everywhere, and reveals the failed P. Diddy album, "Puff Daddy Loves DOS."

When Microsoft first started talking about the .NET strategy, the concept of "Web services" was somewhat difficult to grasp. While it was supposed to go beyond simply leading customers to a software rental model, there seemed to be few other benefits for consumers. At the keynote speech to the first annual Microsoft Mobility Developer Conference 2003, Bill Gates further elucidated the .NET strategy and explained how pervasive computing and digital devices will work together in the near future.

But First This...

Keynote speeches are often boring—they sound more like product sales pitches than discussions of industry trends. Microsoft, though, usually spices things up with clever videos and other flourishes. Gates keynote at the Microsoft Mobility Developer Conference 2003 was no different, starting with a hilarious parody of the VH1 "Behind the Music" series ("Behind the Technology"). This history of the computing industry, from DOS to digital devices, included guest appearances from the rap star formerly known as Puff Daddy, who discussed his failed "Puff Daddy Loves DOS" album, and from former president Bill Clinton, who counted off the slow but steady growth of the Internet. "On my first day in office there were 50 Web sites. On my second day there were 51. On my third day there were 52. On the fourth day there were 52. But it was a Sunday."

On a more serious note, Gates painted a picture of a future in which people will own several different devices, running various version of XP. The devices would include PCs, laptops, Pocket PCs, and smartphones. The Tablet PC is an additional device that he feels will have a separate niche. While Gates is obviously taken with devices, he suggested that tablets should connect not just over LANs, but over WANs, through GPRS or CDMA 1xRTT PC Card modems.

Gates spent the remainder of the keynote discussing pervasive computing, wireless Internet access, and the various device platforms well be seeing from the company in the future. In the same way that the J2ME and BREW platforms have enabled developers to write applications for cellular phones, Microsoft expects developers to use Visual Basic .NET to write software tools, productivity programs, and games for the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms. To that end, Gates introduced the .NET Compact Framework, a platform for development. To spur developer adoption of the .NET Compact Framework, Gates announced that the company would give away as many as 25,000 of the not-yet-released ViewSonic V37 Pocket PCs.

The .NET environment promises, through the use of Web services, connectivity everywhere. Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 (codenamed Titanium) will be one important component of that vision. It will be built to create device syncing capabilities. Originally envisioned as being a separate product from Exchange Server, this function was deemed too important to leave out. Through Web services, devices will be able to query Exchange Server for address and schedule information and then display that information anywhere and everywhere. This type of ubiquitous data access lies at the heart of .NET.

The Microsoft Mobility Developer Conference (MMDC) 2003 is a developer conference, and Gates is the companys chief software architect, so in his keynote speech at MMDC 2003, he spent a fair bit of time describing how applications are built in Visual Studio, which will support the .NET Compact Framework. Since Visual Studio is already the most popular software development platform, Microsoft is in a position to roll out this development capability to a good many users. In the very near future, we may be carrying Microsoft devices and that can access our information anywhere, anytime.