Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates put seamless and secure computing at the heart of his keynote to the Comdex show.
Speaking in Las Vegas, Gates said seamless computing, a software-based connecting infrastructure that connects all of a user's different information, will be available by the end of the decade.
But computing has to be made more secure first, he warned.
"As we move forward, we've got to get the fundamentals right. One of those is trustworthy computing," he said.
"We've got to give the IT department the assurance that [their software] will be reliable and secure without spending the man-hours they do today on patching. It's quite a challenge for all of us in the industry to meet, but it's way do-able."
To provide better security, software updates should be clearly partitioned with optional features separated from updates relating to security issues, which need thorough checking to ensure they cause no regression, he explained.
Microsoft's Software Management Server will play a role here, according to Gates, because 90 per cent of enterprises running Windows have licensed it to track what software they run and its status.
Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, designed to help companies secure the software code on their network, was also showcased.
The product, due in mid-2004, offers improved management functions and stronger virtual private network capabilities, with firewall and web caching functions. It also provided arguably the most eye-catching demo of the presentation.
Gates predicted that the second wave of Tablet PCs would drive "substantial growth" in the market, and discussed Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2004, which he said would be available as a free upgrade for Tablet PC owners in mid-2004.
It features improved handwriting recognition, a redesigned input panel and provides new ways for software developers to include ink-recognition capabilities in their applications.
And yes, there was a video: Gates as Morpheus and Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer as Neo in a Matrix spoof. Not as truly awful as it sounds, actually.
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