Road Ahead Excites Gates

Bill Gates and Jim Allchin update financial analysts on Microsoft's activities.

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.