Gates delivers his vision for the future

Bill Gates presented to Microsoft Certified Solution Providers attending Fusion 99 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco his new vision of the future, which he called the PC Plus Era.

Gates had his first vision in 1975 when he foresaw a PC in every home. His newest vision has in a sense scaled up with the times.

PCs will become only one of many devices, which will include phones, pocket personal digital assistants, intelligent TVs and computers in cars that can all share a common information base connected to a single network, Gates told the overflow audience.

“The PC Plus Era will empower people through great software, any time, any place and on any device,” Gates said.

Gates also gave the solution providers in attendance a more tangible example of what to expect in the short term with Windows 2000. “As you create information, it is replicated via IntelliMirror so a copy is on the server and you can get accessibility wherever you go and have it available on the Internet. You will have your preferences, your favourites, your music all show up on the different devices that you authenticate yourself to.”

Gates all but promised the final shipping version of Windows 2000 by the end of the year. “It’s looking pretty good,” he said.

The Microsoft chairman and CEO also hinted that an entirely revamped version of Exchange Server, dubbed Exchange ++, ClearType, a Microsoft technology for easier reading on an LCD screen, and a tablet PC with handwriting recognition built in are “very concrete this year or early next year.”

Gates got a big round of applause when he told the audience that Microsoft is considering a change to its much-maligned, at times hard-to-comprehend error message format, and that the change is now in beta. After reading an error message, instead of being given “Okay” as the only icon to click on users will be given an alternative called “Lame.” If Lame is clicked, a message box will open and the user can tell Microsoft why the error message was poorly designed.

For the most part, while Gates was giving attendees a high-level vision of the future, breakout sessions at the Fusion conference had a more targeted and sharper focus. Presenters discussed issues ranging from how to sell effectively against Oracle and Lotus Notes/Domino Release 5 — a session from which the press was barred — to how to use IT as a weapon to eliminate any competition.

Gates in his keynote talked about the interplay between software development and the Internet, pointing out that applications must become highly scalable and be offered in multiservice formats.

“Some [applications] will be hosted and some will be inside the company,” Gates said.

With the assumption that when a billionaire businessman talks, other business people listen, Gates ended his talk by advising the Microsoft solution providers that they should “prove a business model and then scale.”