Gates’ Keynote Speech at COMDEX/Fall ’98 Focuses on Promises and Pitfalls of the Information Age

LAS VEGAS, November 16, 1998 — Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates unveiled a new font rendering technology at COMDEX/Fall ’98 this week that he says will make type on computer screens as clear and easy to read as the printed page.

The software invention, called ClearType, improves font display resolutions by as much as 300 percent, Gates said during his keynote speech. By dramatically improving screen readability, ClearType will make it easier to read spreadsheets, Internet content and word processing documents on screen. It is also expected to spur the growth of new products such as electronic books (e-books).

“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 electronic books that will each have the capacity to store literally tens of thousands of titles-as many as you find in bookstores today.”

Gates cited ClearType font technology as an example of the amazing pace of innovation in PC technology. Describing the promises and pitfalls of the information age, Gates said a proliferation of portable interactive devices based upon open PC and Internet standards is bringing enormous benefits to consumers and business computer users who increasingly need data wherever they are. New “Web lifestyle” tools ranging from tablets to PC companions devices to the TV will provide people with instant access to information whether they’re at home, on the road or in a business meeting.

But while Gates noted that the dream of information everywhere is becoming a reality, he also said the computer industry must cut through the complexity of computing to avoid overwhelming customers. As an example, Gates demonstrated Microsoft’s Office 2000 to show how users will be able to tailor the product to meet their individual needs. He also demonstrated how Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 enables developers to build databases that users can search by asking simple English-language questions. Innovations such as these, he said, demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment to conquering complexity.

In addition to making computing simple, Gates said the industry must respond to consumers’ fears about Internet security. “We in the industry must meet our responsibilities in this area,” Gates said. “As we provide people with the tools to go online, we must protect their privacy every step of the way.”

Gates urged Internet-based businesses to address the security issue by enacting privacy policies on their Web sites and by joining the Online Privacy Alliance, a not-for-profit coalition of more than 60 global corporations and organizations working to promote consumer privacy online. Gates also discussed Microsoft’s own efforts to assure privacy, such as posting privacy statements on all Microsoft Web sites and designing tools and business practices to lead the industry’s privacy crusade.

Gates predicted that the industry will be able to successfully tackle challenges such as these, and that breakthroughs and industry partnerships will continue to move the industry forward at a rapid pace. “Ninety percent of the innovations this industry has to offer its customers have yet to come,” he said. “So to those who think PC technology has run its course, I have a simple message: You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

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