Gates Envisions New Era of “The Personal Web” at COMDEX

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 15, 1999 — Addressing an industry audience at COMDEX/Fall ’99, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates explained how Web sites will transform into personal interactive service centers, giving consumers an unprecedented degree of flexibility and personalization. Gates envisioned the era of the “Personal Web,” where users can access the information, goods and services they want — any time, any place and from a variety of devices.

Gates explained that consumers and the industry face two views of computing — the “big box” model of vertically integrated, centrally controlled, server-centric computing, and the PC model, with its low cost, high volume, ease of use and low barriers to entry. Gates noted that the “big box” model is expensive, less flexible and more prone to failure, while the PC model offers greater opportunity and more consumer choice, while the PC model has worked very well. He pointed to the phenomenal competition, innovation and economic growth in the PC industry, noting that more than 100 million PCs were shipped this year, and that PC sales have outpaced analysts’ predictions by 54 percent since 1992.

“When you get a tool like this, you get something that even surprises the people whose job it is to make projections about what’s going to happen,” Gates said. The PC has hone to new heights – and I believe it will continue to do so.”

In his address, Gates focused on several key trends in the technology industry that are combining to transform the Internet and personal computing:

XML. XML allows Web sites, personal information and a variety of devices to work together seamlessly — enabling consumers to customize information to create their own “Personal Web.” In his keynote, Gates demonstrated how consumers can program a trip by leveraging GPS services in the car, downloading a variety of trip-planning information from the Web, scheduling services from businesses along the route, and downloading music to the car. Gates predicted that XML will become a key Internet technology, becoming more visible than HTML.

Broadband and wireless networks. In the coming years, broadband and wireless connectivity will become far more commonplace, allowing consumers and businesses to access rich content and services from a wider variety of locations and devices.

Generation I. Gates noted that children raised in the Internet era will take full advantage of these technological developments — communicating and learning in fundamentally different ways than their parents.

Windows 2000. Microsoft’s newest operating system — which will be released to manufacturing (RTM) this year and available at retail outlets in February — is designed from the ground up to help companies “Internet-enable” their businesses. Gates noted that its improved reliability and advanced manageability brings customers closer to the “24×7” reliability Internet customers demand — and proved it by demonstrating five Windows 2000-based Web servers handling the equivalent of over 500 million daily page hits. “Microsoft developers have been working tirelessly to make sure that Windows 2000 is the most reliable operating system in the industry,” Gates said.

New computing devices. Although the PC will remain the primary device of choice for the knowledge worker, Gates predicted that the growth and development of new computing devices – from interactive televisions to handheld computers – will explode in the coming years, bringing consumers anytime, anywhere access to the power of the Web. “As all these new devices come in, the rich cell phone, the TV with a digital set-top box, even the computer in your car — your Personal Web services will span all of those,” Gates said.

Privacy. With the growing personalization of the Web, protection of consumer privacy will become more and more critical. Gates noted that privacy-enabling technologies such as P3P and XML-based privacy statements will help consumers take full advantage of the Internet while keeping their information safe and secure.

Gates unveiled several prototypes of the MSN-Based Web Companion, a simple and inexpensive device that offers simple Internet connectivity and Web access using Windows CE, MSN Internet Access and services. The devices will have a simplified keyboard and user interface, “instant-on” functionality and direct links to services. Manufactured by a variety of OEM partners including Thomson Consumer Electronics, Acer, Inc. and Philips Electronics, these low-cost devices are expected to be widely available in the second half of 2000.

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