Gates to Preview Note-Taking App

In his Comdex keynote, Microsoft's chairman will introduce OneNote and announce release dates for .Net Server 2003, smart display devices.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.s chairman and chief software architect, will use his keynote address at the Comdex Fall show in Las Vegas on Sunday night to introduce OneNote, the latest technology in the Office desktop productivity suite.

OneNote is a note-taking software application that allows users to capture, store and retrieve typewritten notes, pictures and diagrams on their laptop, desktop and Tablet PCs.

Gates will also announce that the Windows .Net Server 2003 family will be launched at an official event next April, more than a year later than initially hoped. In addition, he will tell Comdex attendees that the second release candidate of Windows .Net Server will be available in a few weeks, sources familiar with his keynote said.

Gates will also announce the official launch of the smart display devices based on its software currently code-named Mira at the Consumer Electronics Show on Jan. 8.

David Jaffe, the lead product manager for Microsoft Office, told eWEEK that users have long wanted to be able to match the versatility of pen and paper with their computers. While paper lets people write and draw anywhere, it cannot be easily searched and there is no simple way to rearrange text, change bullet numbers or move a paragraph without erasing or creating a disorganized and difficult-to-read document.

"Microsoft OneNote tackles this challenge head-on and will enable people to take free-form notes as they would in a paper notebook by clicking and writing or typing anywhere on a page, while delivering the easy access, organization and search capabilities of digital technology. With the tabbed interface, people can create and manage multiple notebooks," he said.

OneNote also has an auto-save feature that eliminates the problem of lost notes and always opens to the last page of text created. The search feature will scan across all notes taken to retrieve data, he said. The product will go into beta early next year and will be released around the middle of the year--the same time as the next Office upgrade, Office 11, and xDocs--but no decision has been made around pricing or whether it will be a component of Office 11 or a stand-alone product, Jaffe said.

OneNote will also be able to run on earlier versions of Windows based on the 9X code base, unlike Office 11, he confirmed.

The OneNote technology comes hot on the heels of last months announcement of XDocs, another new technology in the Office family. Microsoft officials are positioning this as a hybrid information-gathering tool for organizations that blends the benefits and richness of a traditional word processing program with the data capturing ability and rigor of a forms package.

With regard to the release of the Windows .Net server 2003, Bob OBrien, group product manager in the Windows .Net Product Management Group, said that while Microsoft expects many Windows 2000 server users to incrementally upgrade parts of their infrastructure to take advantage of the new functionality over time, it is focusing on those customers still running NT 4. "Those customers have a platform theyve been on for five to seven years. This is the platform theyve been waiting for, for the next generation of their IT infrastructure," he said.

The Data Center and Enterprise editions of the server family will have both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, and all the products will be delivered at the same time, OBrien said.