Gates ignores heat to focus on the PC

Gates made no mention of US 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 US Department of Justice plans to seek a breakup of Microsoft, the company's already-suffering stock traded at $US66.63, a drop of more than 15 per cent from the previous day. It was the largest intra-day drop in the value of Microsoft's stock in 13 years. The company's share price showed signs of recovery on Tuesday morning, going up to $68.75.

Proposed remedies to end Microsoft's monopoly in the operating systems market are expected to be announced this week and reports say the US Government may push for a breakup of the company.

The Justice Department is likely to ask US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to spin off Microsoft's popular Office productivity software suite as a means of reviving competition, according to people familiar with the case.

The recommendations also are expected to include limits on Microsoft's business practices during a transition period before the spin-off, they said.

Meanwhile, 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 emphasise 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.

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