Microsoft chairman Bill Gates sounded familiar themes to a sympathetic audience in his keynote address wrapping up the company's TechEd conference recently.
But while he again stressed Windows NT 5.0's strategic importance, and his company's side in the antitrust battle with the US Government, Gates also gave attendees an insight into a new Windows development tool.
Via a remote broadcast from Microsoft's Redmond campus, Gates told a packed auditorium that NT 5.0, due to enter beta 2 testing next month, will not be rushed to market.
"We didn't prioritise the schedule over the quality of the work," Gates said. "We understand our direction very, very well, although the exact timing, we don't know."
Most industry observers - even Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's executive vice president of sales and support, and Gates' right-hand man - believe NT 5.0 will not ship until 1999. Ballmer claims it will be "early 1999", but others say the second quarter of the year is more likely.
Gates said he is unsure what effect the year 2000 problem will have on NT 5.0. On one hand, some corporations might decide to go with new, year 2000 compliant software, he said, while others will be "distracted" and delay any purchasing decisions until they solve their millennium problems.
Also, Gates said beta 2 of NT 5.0, which will add IntelliMirror and other technologies, will be practically feature-complete, and that most feedback from testers will go toward NT 6.0.
Windows NT is the base platform for Microsoft's Digital Nervous System enterprise initiative. It hopes developers will realise the initiative by building a three-tier, distributed Internet architecture (DNA).
DNA will let developers harness the best of Windows development while leveraging Internet capabilities, Gates said. He pointed to Chrome, a 3D rendering and interactive media graphics tool under development at Microsoft, as a way to bridge the two.
Eric Engstrom, a Chrome product manager, demonstrated beta 2 of the technology, impressing conference goers with graphics presentations. However, even he admitted Microsoft wasn't yet sure what Chrome's true value is.
Chrome is destined for future versions of Windows 98 and NT.
Another demonstration highlighted Gates' fascination with the possibility of human-PC interaction, which he said will be standard operating system fare in the future.
During a brief question-and-answer period, one attendee asked Gates if Microsoft's production had been affected by the US Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit, filed last month.
Gates said only the company's lawyers are preoccupied with the potentially historic lawsuit, and repeated his contention that the US Government was trying to stifle Microsoft's innovation. He reiterated the company's defence that integrating Windows and the Internet Explorer browser is a natural progression of technological innovation.
Gates also shared the results of a survey of the approximately 8800 TechEd attendees, who said they wanted Microsoft to:work on fault detection in its mission-critical applicationsfix bugs fasterprovide more documentation with productsoffer more technical support"be more open about the directions we are taking", Gates said.