Fusion is key to future of enterprise apps, Gates says

Corporate users will increasingly combine traditional enterprise software with online capabilities to create composite applications, Bill Gates said Monday.

In the keynote address at Convergence, an annual conference for users of Microsoft Corp.’s business software running in Dallas through Tuesday, the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect also shared his vision of a world of work in which “smart” tables will function as adhoc screens for mobile devices.

He barely touched on the company’s announcement Monday of its increased push into facilitating hosted versions of its CRM (customer relationship management) software as well as providing new integration capabilities for its Dynamics GP ERP (enterprise resource planning) product.

Instead, Gates spoke in more general terms about the ongoing coming together of the “structured” world of financial and human resources applications with elements of the Internet world including the ability to do mashups, the blending of data and tools from different sources.

He neatly sidestepped the issue of whether Microsoft plans to eventually enable the hosting of all its software.

“We don’t think there’ll be a huge swing to one model at the expense of the other,” Gates said in response to questions previously collected from Convergence attendees. On-premise software will continue to have an appeal, with software hosting proving more popular with smaller companies, he added.

Looking ahead, Gates said that Microsoft is working on a “missing piece of software” that would use rules to determine how to respond to people trying to contact an individual. Instead of sending out a generic “out of the office” message, the software would instead use the caller’s identity to determine how to answer the call.

Gates also demonstrated a work day in the future using technology under development by Microsoft Research on a stage rigged out in three sections to resemble a home, an office and an airport lounge.

At home, he accessed a large wall-hung touch screen containing a mix of family and work information, including a combined calendar and data on where family members were courtesy of GPS (global positioning system) devices. The screen also displayed news feeds and, having identified a particular story of interest, Gates was able to track its development via his mobile and office computing devices.

Once in the office, he was surrounded by three large free-standing touch screens, with secure access to his work computer provided by fingerprint identification. In the middle of a meeting, he received an alert from his calendar about road traffic delays recommending that he leave the office shortly to ensure he made his flight.

In the airport waiting lounge, Gates placed his mobile phone on a ‘smart’ table that used a camera and software to become a display for his phone. He logged into his computer via fingerprint recognition. The table was able to recognize information from a business card he placed on it and enter that data into his digital contacts list. The moment he removed his phone from the table, he logged out of his computing environment.

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