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Bill Gates was touting his future plans for the PC in a speech at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2000 yesterday. Speaking at the Morial Convention Centre in New Orleans, Gates ignored Microsoft's financial and structural woes to discuss the software company's technology plans. "Our commitment is to provide software that is going to deliver on all the advanced scenarios," he said. He concentrated on the consumer market, but also talked about improvements to the reliability and scalability of Windows 2000 – saying he believed this operating system would be crucial in the convergence of voice, video and data networking. Gates urged hardware vendors to build systems that supported technology for better images and music via the PC. He forecast: "We're going to start to see the microphone built into every PC", and that voice chat would be "an explosive application". Microsoft Network plans to bring out a voice chat offering in the next few months. He stressed that another important feature of future machines would be quick boot time, and compared the forthcoming Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows ME, to rivals from Sony and Apple. Gates said the company had got the boot time for Windows ME down to 25 seconds, against the Sony PlayStation – which boots in 33 seconds, and the iMac – one minute and ten seconds. Microsoft also announced the creation of an Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group to be headed by VP Bill Veghte. This group will be responsible for all the embedded platforms, tools and marketing efforts within Microsoft, with products and technologies stamped with a single brand name: Windows Powered. The company said it expected Windows CE 3.0 to be widely available from June. ® Related stories Micro$oft promises an OS-embedded world Micro$oft shares clobbered on breakup rumours Paul Allen nearly divested of Micro$oft stock

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