Twenty years on from his first address at Comdex, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, this year used his keynote speech to reminisce and found that some software challenges from the 1980s still exist. He also announced new technologies to solve some of today’s problems.
Slides from his presentation in 1983, when Gates’ father operated the projector, showed that software should have no surprises, be trustworthy, follow a consistent model, be easy to understand and have an undo command.
Back then, Gates said software defined the information age, but suffered from hardware limitations. Today, software defined the digital decade and, introducing a concept called seamless computing, Gates said the challenge was to take advantage of all that hardware offered in a seamless way.
Microsoft is heavily involved in the seamless computing concept — Gates presented the company’s smart phone software, Xbox Music Mixer, Windows XP Media Centre Edition and MSN Direct for the forthcoming Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) watches as examples.
At the foundation of seamless computing were the recently launched Office System products, Windows Server 2003, Visual Studio.Net and Web services, Gates said.
He hit on several familiar themes.
Gates repeated Microsoft’s security promises and offered a demonstration of Microsoft Research search technology. He also announced email filtering technology called SmartScreen.
Developed by Microsoft Research, SmartScreen will be delivered as “Intelligent Message Filter” (IMF) for Microsoft’s Exchange email server product in the first half of next year and is already part of Hotmail, MSN and Outlook 2003.
Another new product designed to help IT managers deal with today’s technology headaches is Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004.
A first beta of ISA Server 2004 is planned for January, according to Microsoft.
Another demonstration was reserved for “Stuff I’ve Seen”, a search functionality developed by Microsoft Research that may one day be part of Windows.
It captures information that users view on their PC and makes that searchable. It can also pop up and suggest information from that index, for example, while the user is typing an email.
To celebrate the first birthday of the Tablet PC, Gates talked about the upgrade to Windows XP Pro Tablet PC Edition codenamed Lonestar.
The update promises to offer better handwriting recognition support, among other features, and is due out in mid-2004 as a free update to current customers.