SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates on Wednesday conveyed his vision for the future of computing and managed to slip a few technology announcements in to boot during his keynote address at the VSLive! conference here.
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.
Greater Support for Mobile
Meanwhile, regarding the mobile space. Gates said: “Mobile is one of the most exciting new areas for applications. We want to make sure these applications are rich and that they fit in with other devices.” In addition, “Web services are getting to be so key in this space and we want the Web services calls to be the same on all devices.”
Gates said there will be more than 100 million smart devices by 2007 and that the companys Windows Mobile technology will penetrate the mobile phone market. In terms of Windows Mobile momentum, 37 companies are building hardware and more than 50 mobile operators are supporting it, he said. And while more than 2.5 million programmers use Visual Studio, there are now more than 380,000 Windows Mobile developers, he added.
Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition includes support for square-screen resolution and dynamic screen switching between landscape and portrait modes, in addition to support for Video Graphics Array (VGA) and Quarter Video Graphics Array (QVGA) found on devices with higher-resolution displays.
Also this week, Microsoft Tuesday announced the launch of its MapPoint Location Server, which enables developers to build location-based services into their mobile applications.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Speech Server 2004 “is about making it easy to write server-based voice recognition for domain-specific grammars,” Gates said. Speech technology is central to seamless computing, complements screen-based interfaces, and must be low-cost and widely available, he said.
“Microsoft Speech Server 2004 has application logic and speech processing, and then it can connect you to general telephony,” Gates said.
Gates also said applications developed with the new Microsoft technology can be accessed from the more than 2.2 billion installed base of telephones, mobile phones and Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs and smart phones for mixed speech and visual exchanges.
In fact, Gates made note of a case study where Microsoft and a partner built a speech and telephony application for the New York City Department of Education that enables parents of school kids broad access to applications that give student grade and attendance information. The system is intended for families who dont have access to computers, Gates said.
Finally, Gates said Microsoft is not backing away from pursuing additional innovation in these spaces. “We dont see ourselves backing off on research and development,” he said.