Gates Delivers COMDEX Keynote; Speaks of the Promise and Pitfalls Of the Information Age

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 15, 1998 — In an optimistic and forward-looking keynote address at COMDEX/Fall ’98, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and CEO Bill Gates today spoke of how innovation in PC technology will continue to improve people’s lives in numerous new ways. But he cautioned that the industry must tackle two key issues – increased complexity and threats to privacy – if it is to build on its remarkable success.

Gates spoke of the great potential of the many new products enabled by the PC, such as eBooks (electronic books). Gates also unveiled Microsoft’s innovative and pioneering new ClearType
font technology, which will make eBooks and the LCD screens found on laptops and other computers almost as clear and easy to read as the printed page. “The ClearType software offers a breakthrough in screen readability that wasn’t expected for another five years,” said Gates.

Gates predicted that, with broad support from eBook manufacturers and the world’s largest publishers, the fledgling eBook industry will take off far more rapidly than anyone has previously forecast. “The shape of books as we know them is changing,” Gates said. “By 2001, 50,000 electronic titles will be available, and millions of people will be reading books in electronic form. Each eBook will have the capacity to store literally tens of thousands of titles – as many as you find in some bookstores today.” These personal libraries, he said, will make reading easier and more convenient, while helping to preserve the environment by saving millions of trees.

The proliferation of what he called “personal companions,” eBooks and other portable interactive devices based on open PC and Internet standards, is making the dream of information everywhere a reality, Gates said. Such innovations offer enormous benefits to consumers and business computer users who increasingly need access to data wherever they are, while offering the entire PC industry vast potential for growth. But, Gates cautioned, the increasing number of devices and media on which data is stored could soon swamp customers unless the industry puts simplicity first. At Microsoft, Gates emphasized, conquering complexity is the
No. 1 priority.

Demonstrating Microsoft’s efforts to combat complexity, Gates showed how Microsoft® Office 2000 will tailor itself to the individual user for increased ease and productivity, and how the software can repair itself if files are accidentally deleted. Gates also demonstrated how Microsoft SQL Server
7.0 enables developers to build databases that can be searched using simple questions in English. Such innovations, Gates said, will help Microsoft’s customers cut through the complexity of computing. “Rather than making customers learn and adapt to our software, we are designing software that learns and adapts to our customers,” he said.

But simplicity alone is not enough, Gates said. He cautioned that the industry should heed consumers’ fears about the security of all the devices and media – especially the Internet – on which their personal data is stored. While noting that this is nothing new – paper records of personal data have proliferated uncontrollably since the introduction of the bank account – Gates acknowledged the fear of many consumers that, in an online world, their personal data is more easily accessible and insecure than ever.

“We in the industry must meet our responsibilities in this area. As we provide people with the tools to go online, we must protect their privacy every step of the way,” Gates said. He discussed the industry initiatives that are already in place, from the Online Privacy Alliance to TRUSTe, and described Microsoft’s own efforts to assure privacy, from providing privacy statements on all Microsoft Web sites to designing the tools and business practices to lead the industry’s privacy crusade.

Gates’ speech was introduced by a humorous video of his past year’s “highlights” – getting a pie in the face in Brussels, participating in the Senate hearing, being sued by the government, “appearing” on MTV’s Celebrity Death Match, and watching while Windows® 98 crashed at COMDEX/Spring – and ended on an upbeat note. The PC, he said, is not only making amazing gains in enterprisewide systems, as evidenced by the fact that corporations are adopting the Microsoft Windows NT® operating system version 4.0 at a faster rate than any other mission-critical operating system, it is also making possible dozens of new leisure-time activities, from reading eBooks to practicing digital photography to competing in virtual motocross.

Thanks to this innovation, Gates concluded, the PC industry is on the brink of the strongest period of growth it has ever seen. “Ninety percent of the innovations this industry has to offer its customers are yet to come,” Gates said. “So to those who think PC technology has run its course, I have a simple message: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

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