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Gates says NC dead

Paris in the the fall

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"The NC is discredited," Bill Gates told the IDC European IT Forum in Paris today. He had a vivid memory that three years ago he had found himself in the position of defending the PC as the status quo at the same meeting in which Larry Ellison gave an impassioned presentation of the NC. Today he suggested that Microsoft could accommodate the terminal approach within a Windows-based system. So far as potential sequels to the NC were concerned, he thought it was unrealistic to believe that every software application could be rewritten in another language. He couldn't bring himself to mutter the name of Java, but mercifully he didn't mention Basic either. Microsoft's role, Gates said, was to develop low-cost software building blocks. In the future, he still saw Windows, Office and BackOffice as providing around 90 per cent of Microsoft's revenue. Ventures like Expedia and other Microsoft web ventures would not become more important to Microsoft, although some were now breaking even. It was possible that the business would pass a billion dollars a year, but growth prospects were limited. Other sectors where Microsoft would not compete included ERP (enterprise resource planning), chips, systems hardware, and software services. Microsoft would continue working through some 12 to 15 major partners to develop its SQL Server product. One of the things that was currently exercising Microsoft was how to keep servers operating for a year or more at a time. Quite a few people would like the answer to that. On the appliance front, it was interesting that Gates said that "Windows CE will be very popular" and did not brag of any sales success. In repeating the false claim that the Microsoft Terradata database was the biggest on the Web, Gates showed that he was evidently not receiving the bad news that he claimed was sent around in Microsoft email. IBM has bigger databases, including one for patents. Gates said that Microsoft had found that beta testing for products like a new version of NT was taking nine months rather than the six months that beta testing had taken previously. He would not be drawn for a date for NT5 other than to state that it would be some time in 1999. It will be another two years before Microsoft has cracked handwriting recognition, Gates said, although R&D expenditure had increased each year. Asked to name Microsoft's two main competitors for the next five years, he mentioned IBM and Sun. Perhaps the newest thing in Gates' presentation, which bore the scars of many previous presentations to student groups, was that he was wearing new wire-rimmed spectacles. The other new thing is that he is living the web lifestyle in his cottage by a lake in Washington with a 45 megabyte/second connection to the Internet. ®

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