Over 50,000 attendees at the Comdex Spring/Windows World show in Atlanta today, expecting Microsoft president Bill Gates to provide a vision of future technology, were stunned that he said little of interest.
Organiser Softbank Comdex said Gates would deliver a keynote speech to "address current and future trends in technology and Microsoft?s vision for how these technologies will make application development, deployment and maintenance easier". Two overspill rooms were filled before the keynote speech, but Gates spurned the opportunity to address delegates in favour of a question and answer session, hastily prepared on the preceding day.
Delegates were amazed. "He said nothing interesting and repeated stuff from his column in the 'New York Times'," one said. "Why was he here if he had nothing prepared?" His colleague agreed. "He is the main reason people have come here and if the show is no use then I?ve wasted time. I?m surprised because I was expecting more."
Gates did offer a little new information. He said Windows operating system development will swallow $1 billion this year, roughly half of Microsoft?s research and development budget. Internet Explorer 4.0 will include extra security features and Microsoft will expand its direct selling consulting arm in the next 12 months but will continue to rely on partners like Digital, Hewlett-Packard, Arthur Andersen and EDS to implement larger solutions.
Gates also said he will visit senior politicians this week to thrash out a compromise on the US? ban on encryption software exports. Along with other software CEOs, including yesterday?s keynote speaker Jeff Papows from Lotus, Gates aims to persuade the authorities to lift their restriction, which is intended to stop the risk of foreign hackers being able to enter important US networks. Gates said the ban on keys over 40 bits merely puts Microsoft and its rivals at a competitive disadvantage. He revealed Explorer 4.0 will include secure areas, which administrators can set.
But the rest of the hour-long session was taken up by Gates? well documented views on Java, NT and network computers. He said developers should be able to take advantage of the native features of other platforms such as the Mac OS. "We support Java but it is not the only language. Developers should have choice," he said.
On large multiprocessing NT systems, Gates admitted the memory bus becomes a bottleneck beyond eight processors. "Then you need clustering," he added. PCs will handle future technologies including speech but NCs cannot, Gates claimed. "We?re not going to take away portability and responsiveness. But we need to couple that with more simplicity."
After his "speech", Gates presented awards at Windows World, the show being held concurrently in Atlanta with Comdex, the Consumer Electronics Show and communications event Expocomm.
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