Gates predicts Microsoft will thrive as PC wanes

Microsoft Corp.’s dominant position in software will hold steady even as PC-centered computing wanes, Bill Gates, the company’s chairman and chief software architect said Thursday at an Intel Corp.-sponsored event.

Gates predictably championed his company’s Windows 2000 operating system and Microsoft’s recently released line of enterprise servers as confirmation that the software maker will have a place in Internet-based enterprise computing. But he also announced new management software called Microsoft Operations Manager, due out next year. Gates also announced a series of standards-based management interfaces called .Net Management Services and a partner program called the Microsoft Management Alliance.

He further said that NetIQ Corp. would provide its Operations Manager product to Microsoft for use in Windows 2000 and Microsoft server applications. Ching-Fa Hwang, CEO at NetIQ, joined Gates on stage to demonstrate some of his company’s management tools, including automated and consolidated error fixes for servers. The NetIQ product could help large companies manage data when hundreds or even thousands of servers are in use.

Microsoft and NetIQ have forged a three-year collaboration to develop and market products for Windows consoles and management servers. NetIQ is, however, also designing applications for other hardware and software vendors. The company said it will design technology that works on systems by Sun Microsystems Inc., SAP AG, and Lotus Development Corp. – all rivals of Microsoft.

The Microsoft Operations Manager should be out next year, and is aimed at helping the company’s Windows 2000 Server and .Net Enterprise Server work better.

Microsoft’s work with Dell Computer Corp., Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Computer Corp., Unisys Corp., and others will help make the Windows DataCenter servers reliable and compatible across the board, Gates said.

“We need a new level of partnerships between hardware vendors and Microsoft in creating these systems,” Gates said.

Besides the new products and work with hardware vendors, Gates underscored Microsoft’s commitment to XML (Extensible Markup Language), which he said helps software, Internet services, and back-end hardware work together smoothly.

“XML is really the critical standard,” he said.

As for the Internet, Gates said that Microsoft’s position among software makers would give it an edge. Software applications will be key to the growth of the wireless device market and areas such as interactive TV, he said. Automated applications, voice technology and media-rich content also are areas of focus for Microsoft, which envisions a new approach to software in the future.

“We will think about software more as a service than we have in the past,” Gates said.