Gates Focuses on Future of the PC

NEW ORLEANS (04/25/2000) - Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Technology Architect Bill Gates ignored a plethora of unpleasant issues -- the government's antitrust case, a potential breakup, and the company's worst financial day in more than a decade -- to tout the PC's future at WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) here Tuesday.

Gates made no mention of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling last month that the company he co-founded was an illegal monopoly. Instead, he put on his technology hat, discussing Microsoft's plans to ready its Windows platform for a wireless, broadband, all-pervasive computing future.

"Our commitment is to provide software that is going to deliver on all the advanced scenarios," Gates told WinHEC attendees. "In some ways you think of this as platforms, but in other ways you can think of them as services."

The only reference to the company's ongoing antitrust woes came from Microsoft official Chad Magendanz, who during a demonstration of Whistler, the next-generation version of Windows based on Windows 2000, quipped, "Yesterday I was checking the financial news and there are some great 'buy' opportunities out there.'"On Monday, with reports swirling that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to seek a breakup of Microsoft, the company's already-suffering stock traded at $66.63, a drop of more than 15 percent from the previous day. It was the largest intra-day drop in the value of Microsoft's stock in 13 years. The company's stock showed signs of recovery on Tuesday morning, increasing to $68.75 per share.

Gates touched on Windows 2000's improvements in reliability and scalability, saying the platform would be a key in the convergence of voice, video, and data networking. To emphasize that point, he took a phone call from Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, using Cisco's IP telephones and CallManager 3.0 running on Windows 2000.

Much of Gates' keynote speech focused on the consumer market, as he urged hardware makers and engineers to build systems that support technology that will enhance the management of images, music, and other information.

Gates predicted that microphones "will be everywhere" soon, thanks to speech recognition improvements and technologies such as voice-enhanced e-mail and voice chat, which "will be an explosive app." Gates said the Microsoft Network will put out a voice chat offering in the next few months.

Also in the spotlight was Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME, the upgrade to Windows 98 that Microsoft hopes to ship by year's end. Gates touted Windows ME's new features, including a hibernation mode and a 25-second boot time -- a vast improvement over Windows 98's boot time. He said that was faster than Sony Corp.'s Playstation, which boots at 33 seconds, or Apple Computer Inc.'s iMac, which takes 1 minute 10 seconds.

"We could have demonstrated that, but we just don't have time for it," Gates quipped.

At WinHEC Tuesday, Microsoft also:

-- Announced the formation of an Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group, to be headed by Vice President Bill Veghte. With products and technologies stamped with a "Windows Powered" brand, the group will concentrate on delivering adaptable, scalable embedded platforms for 32-bit and above connected devices and enabling rich applications and Internet services for a wide range of solutions.

-- Touted Windows CE 3.0, which was first unveiled last week at Microsoft's Pocket PC event in New York. Windows CE 3.0 is expected to be widely available in June.

-- Unveiled a Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Program, for hardware and software builders to leverage the high-end server, which Microsoft plans to ship this summer.

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington, is at www.microsoft.com.

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