Bill Gates says nothing… at great length

But Michael Cowpland has plenty to say

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WCIT 2000 His Billness lived up to his Register nickname today as he flew into Taipei International causing havoc in the airport and then breezed into the International Convention Centre to the sound of snapper's flash bulbs flashing and video cameras whirring furiously.

More seasoned hacks sharpened their pencils hoping he'd actually say something worth writing up.

But Bill Gates, rather than dilating on his continuing battle with the US government, instead chose to deliver a speech he was due to give last week, spelling out what Microsoft anticipates for the next 10 years, under the title next generation windows software (NGWS).

But even though Gates was staying shtum, Michael Cowpland CEO of Corel, said at a separate press conference, that although he expected the appeals process to take some time, he hoped that restrictions were placed on Microsoft in the meantime.

Cowpland said: "We would hope there would be some restrictions, because that would prevent predatory cross-funnelling." That had happened before, he said, implying that the future two divisions would shunt information and code between themselves, thus putting further pressure on application and OS competitors such as Corel. Last week, Corel pruned one fifth of its staff and Cowpland decided not to pay himself a salary.

"Microsoft did a great job with the Windows standard 10 years ago but right now we need an open standard," he said.

The cost of the software development required to deliver Microsoft's vision "will cost more than three times more than the amount of money to put a man on the moon," Gates claimed.

"Twenty five years ago we decided we'd not build any hardware ourselves. We are depending on our partners to make these breakthroughs. We're assuming there will be the right level of bandwidth. The PC will always include a microphone and a camera. A PC will work across corporate boundaries. The size of storage, speed of PC and graphics, we can all say for sure they will increase at the same exponential PC rate. The PC experience will make all appliances far, far better.

He said that Microsoft is working with LCD manufacturers to provide far better resolution. The Internet will become far more reliable.

"Software Scale", a Microsoft buzzword, will allow the use of more powerful hardware and clustering. "Companies like Tandem...never relied on a pure hardware approach and now Microsoft is taking that idea and taking it to the PC server. No single system going down will bring the system down."

Speech recognition software will form an important part of the new shape of the PC, said Gates. "The new experience will involve the camera. It will know what you're doing and will know when to interrupt you. "This new approach is as revolutionary as the transition from DOS to Windows. [cough -- Ed]. Many people said the the graphics approach was not the right approach because it slowed down the computer. People say the same thing about speech recognition software."

He said that people will look back at today's PC and wonder why they were so clunky. People would wonder why there was a need for boot time. [cough, cough -- Ed]. The future of the Web was XML in a similar fashion to how TCP/IP assisted the growth of the Internet.

"Microsoft's vision 25 years ago was to have a PC in every desktop and every home. That vision lasted until a year ago, but now we think about the person." Microsoft will build XML not only into its applications but into future versions of its language packages such as C and Visual Basic, with backward compatibility.

"We're designing all our applications around XML," Gates said. This new generation of development tools will make it easy to build Web applications.

"All of this requires a a huge investment in software. The partnership approach and the business structure is more important than ever."

Gates said that this year was important for foundation software because of the introduction of Intel IA-64 architecture, which he said will initially be for servers and then migrate to desktops. (Does Intel know this?):

"Moving Windows forward is a great responsibility, making it as reliable as any operating system has ever been in history. It does require us to move the kernel of Windows NT into the next generation of Windows next year. This next year there's a whole new level of foundation software. This is the year for 64-bit. We'll see that first in servers and then on the desktop."

Despite the absence of comment on the present unfortunate Microsoft situation, Gates' speech was followed by a keynote from Rob Young, co-founder of Red Hat, who quipped: "Microsoft was the most successful marketing company of the 20th century. They may have been so evil, but they've done it so well." ®

  • Gates may have said little this morning, but our solid information is that Microsoft China has lost two thirds of its senior management in recent weeks. They've gone to join dotcoms. And this disease has spread to Intel. In the last month, the Taiwanese country manager of Intel has left the firm -- again to join an Internet firm.

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