Microsoft woos CEOs

Microsoft has gathered 100 chief executive officers (CEO) at its Redmond, Washington, compound for two days to spout predictions on the future of Web-based computing and woo them with new technology in the pipeline.

The company's sixth annual CEO Summit began Tuesday with business leaders from industries as diverse as finance, manufacturing and retail, who gathered to hear the software vendor discuss new technologies and productivity tools that it says will revitalize the business workplace.

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates delivered an opening speech highlighting the role technology can play in boosting efficiency and productivity, even as companies grapple with the continued economic lull. He cited examples such as speech recognition, which allows users to interact with computers in a more familiar way. Similarly, Microsoft's recent "Trustworthy Computing" initiative, he said, aims to create a computing infrastructure that users can depend on for steady, secure access to the Internet, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

Productivity is always on display at Microsoft's headquarters, where employees routinely get their hands on early Microsoft technology.

Separate from the CEO event, some Microsoft employees scurrying around the campus Tuesday used prototypes of smart phones running its Pocket PC 2002 operating system.

The CEOs were provided with an equally new technology -- test versions of Tablet PCs which they were able to use during the conference. The slim, portable computers, which run a special edition of Windows XP Professional, sport a display on which users can sketch notes using a stylus pen and Microsoft's handwriting software.

The devices used were prototypes from hardware maker Acer Inc., Microsoft said. The Acer Tablet PCs are equipped with smart card readers used for authenticating CEOs as well as wireless networking technology for checking e-mail and taking part in interactive surveys, Microsoft said.

The Tablet PC first appeared at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas in November 2000. Acer's Tablet PC, called the TM-100, along with similar devices from Compaq Computer Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp., and several Taiwanese vendors, are expected to be available in October, Microsoft said.

Gates also showed off a futuristic PC workstation equipped with a panoramic display and extolled the virtues of its Web-based computing platform, .Net. He told the CEOs that they need to continue investing in these kinds of technologies to achieve long-term cost savings, the Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Microsoft called it's annual summit the next-best thing to the World Economic Forum, a high profile gathering of the rich and powerful. Discussions on tap at the CEO Summit will touch on security, Web services and pervasive computing, the company said.

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