Gates Foresees Fast, Talking PCs

Gates made no mention of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's March ruling that the company he cofounded is 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."

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

Much of Gates's keynote speech focused on the consumer market, as he urged hardware makers and engineers to build systems to 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 MSN will put out a voice chat offering in the next few months.

Revisiting Windows ME

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 time was faster than Sony's PlayStation, which boots at 33 seconds, or Apple'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 an Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group, headed by Bill Veghte, vice president. 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.

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