In his keynote address at Microsoft's WinHEC 2001 conference on Monday, Bill Gates, the company's chairman and chief software architect, announced the availability of Beta 2 of Microsoft Windows XP operating system and named a number of companies aligned with the software giant in the development of the company's Tablet PC platform.
In Australia, Microsoft announced that more than 4000 Australian Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers and members of the Technet Plus program would receive beta copies of the next generation desktop and sever operating system.
Meanwhile, according to a press statement from MS Australia, locals are "playing a noteworthy role" in the beta testing of Windows XP with in excess of 250 customers and partners getting full beta copies for development under the software giant's official Beta Test program.
During Gates' keynote, which kicked off Microsoft's annual hardware developers' conference, he also called on developers to begin adding server-like fault tolerance to PC platforms.
"We will begin to design in fault tolerant systems," Gates said. "We are building fault tolerance into Windows, we are building [fault tolerance] into the development tools."
Gates said Windows XP was "the most important release since Windows 95. It's a huge change, it's an important change." CD-ROMs carrying the beta version of the new operating system were distributed to developers at the conference.
"XP represents the realisation of a dream Microsoft has had for a long time: To take a very rich and powerful code base and have that code base for the entire PC market place," Gates said.
Although the PC platform has advanced by leaps and bounds, Gates told developers that the PC has yet to evolve to the level where it can provide real-time brainstorming and collaboration across user groups, and that as far as PC communications go, "we still have the separation between the phone and the screen".
For Microsoft, Windows XP represents the opportunity to provide a unified PC operating system that lets developers merge all current PC applications and PC capabilities into a simpler experience, "moving from making [advanced tasks on a PC] possible to making them effortless," Gates said.
"I have a lot of enthusiasm for this year. The real promise of how a PC is being used is just beginning to be unlocked," Gates said. "We can make the PC more than twice as valuable than it is today."Photograph: Bill Gates