Bill Gates Previews Exciting Range of Computing Devices Designed Specifically for China

SHENZHEN, China, March 10, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. Chairman and CEO Bill Gates today previewed a revolutionary new computing project designed for the Chinese marketplace, currently code-named the “Venus” project. Based on a fully localized version of the Microsoft® Windows® CE operating system, the “Venus” project makes available a new platform for educational software, plus a combination of other capabilities such as Internet browsing, e-mail, document creation, games, multimedia, television and video CD (VCD) capabilities specifically designed for Chinese consumers. All devices will connect to a standard television monitor and will use PC-like input devices such as a keyboard, joystick and mouse. Manufacturers will select from a range of hardware and software technologies to build devices unique to their target markets, enabling consumers to choose from a range of solutions offered by several manufacturers.

With today’s preview of the “Venus” project, Microsoft again publicly demonstrates its overall commitment to the Chinese marketplace. “I am excited about the benefits that new specialized devices can bring to Chinese consumers, specifically in the areas of education, entertainment and information access,” Gates said. “By delivering this technology in a low-cost and easy-to-use format, we hope to increase access to educational software and, ultimately, the Internet for China’s consumers.”

In recent years Microsoft has increased the number of its products available in Simplified Chinese versions while decreasing the delay between the availability of the English versions and the availability of the Chinese versions. Building on this investment, the “Venus” project marks a new milestone of locally designing new products specifically for the unique needs of China’s consumers. “Today’s preview of the ‘Venus’ project reveals some of the leading-edge technical work created by the Microsoft China Research and Development Center,” said Dr. Sean Zhang, director of the center. “In the long term, this local development team will develop technologies for other markets in addition to its specialized work for China.”

Several manufacturers, including Acer Inc., BBK Electronics Company Ltd., ESS Technology Inc., Haier Group Co., Integrated Technology Express Inc., Legend Group Co., Philips Consumer Electronics and Stone JinBin Co., also announced their support today for the project and showcased initial prototypes with Gates. Each manufacturer will announce pricing and feature sets for each device at the time of the launch, which is expected in the second half of calendar year 1999. Mr. Duan YongPing, president of BBK Corp. – the leading VCD manufacturer in China – gave his impression of the potential for “Venus” devices: “We believe this new category can be an opportunity as big as the VCD phenomenon.”

To build this unique set of devices for the Chinese market, the “Venus” project borrows from other Microsoft technologies such as Windows CE, Microsoft Internet Explorer, the WebTV® service, Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. Windows CE is a modular 32-bit real-time operating system, designed for a new range of specific-function computing appliances. Windows CE provides appliance-like functionality, such as “instant-on” capability, while offering the familiarity of the Windows user interface.

VCD technology is the foundation for a class of consumer electronics devices popular in China. Video CDs are similar to other video devices such as videocassette recorders and DVD and laserdisk players. In China, movies and other entertainment are commonly made available in a multidisk VCD format similar in appearance to audio CDs.

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 of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

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