At COMDEX, Bill Gates Reports on State of the “Digital Decade”

At COMDEX Fall 2002, Microsoft’s Bill Gates demos a new Hewlet-Packard Ipaq 1910 Pocket PC. Click image for high-res verson.

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 17, 2002 — In his opening night keynote address to the COMDEX Fall 2002 industry conference at the MGM Grand Arena, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates took a look at the past, present and the Digital Decade ahead, and gave attendees at the technology industry’s largest annual gathering a peek at a host of technologies designed to connect users and information in new ways.

“We can say that the idea of personal computing is far broader than ever before, broader in new experiences, broader in ways that systems connect automatically, and broader in greater productivity,”
Gates said.
“When you think about the developments over this past year, there were some things that I think were a big surprise on the positive side.”

Gates noted improvements in processing power, fiber-optic capacity and storage capacity, and pointed to technologies such as home wireless networking and digital photography as becoming more affordable and common.
“The whole world of hardware has been delivering at quite a phenomenal rate,”
he said.

In outlining his vision for the Digital Decade now underway, Gates described a world in which
“we’ll think about personal computing in a different way. It’s not just sitting in front of that desktop PC.”
Over the course of this decade, Gates predicted, information and people will come together in new and fun ways, and while the technology behind the information will become fully integrated into everyday life.
“The advances in chips and connectivity, and the devices themselves will make so many things common sense to be done in digital form,”
he said.

Web Services Hurdle Information Barriers

Gates also spoke to the progress made across the high-tech industry in advancing the cause of Web services, singling out the industry’s cooperation in creating the Web Services Interoperability Group as a milestone. To demonstrate the potential of Web services to benefit consumers and businesses alike, the Microsoft chief unveiled a new Web service jointly produced by Microsoft and Kinko’s, the familiar chain of business and document solutions centers. The new Web service, called
“File, Print Kinko’s”
and expected to be available in mid-2003, will add a feature to Windows print menus that allows print jobs from Microsoft Office applications on a connected computer to be sent to any Kinko’s stores in the United States.

Microsoft booths at COMDEX Fall 2002. Click image for high-res verson.

Gates wove announcement of the new service into a larger discussion on XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and the role it will play in all aspects of the technology world. Gates discussed how Microsoft is re-engineering many aspects of the Office productivity suite to take advantage of XML in sharing documents across devices, applications and operating systems, as well the potential impact of XML on creating a secure and private computing experience. Gates called on the industry and government to cooperate and put their resources into building a unified architecture for computing and security based on XML, Web services and standards.

“If there’s anything that I’d tell people to focus their developers on, it would be this approach, understanding XML and how Web services take that to a new level,”
he said.

“One of the things that I think is greatly underestimated is how this approach breaks down barriers — barriers for information flow, barriers for how systems work together.”

Microsoft’s dedication to integrating XML into its software architecture includes, Gates noted, the next release of Office, codenamed
“Office 11,”
which contains document sharing and collaboration features that will allow users to work simultaneously on a host of documents no matter where they are. XML is at the core of Microsoft’s .NET vision and strategy for making the power of the computer available any time, any place and on any device.

New Devices Get Smart and Smarter

As with past COMDEX keynotes by Gates, the speech also featured previews of several innovative new devices that will be finding their way to store shelves over the next year. Notable among these was the new Windows Powered Smart Displays device, a wireless portable monitor that could do for personal computers what wireless handsets did for the telephone. Using the 802.11 protocol, Smart Displays are touch-screen monitors that can be taken away from the PC and used anywhere in the home.

In assisting Gates with a demonstration of Windows Powered Smart Displays, Keith White, senior director in Microsoft’s Embedded Appliance Platform Group, observed,
“When broadband networking came into the home, that truly made the Internet always on. With smart displays, we make the Internet always available at your fingertips.”

White compared the capabilities of Smart Displays with another new hardware product, the Tablet PC. Launched recently in New York, Tablet PCs take a
approach to portable computing, allowing users to write directly on screen and use that text just as if it were input using a keyboard. While the Smart Display and the Tablet PC may look similar, their capabilities are dramatically different.

“The smart display is the evolution of a monitor,”
said White.
“The power of the PC is still running on the PC device itself. Whereas the Tablet PC as the evolution of your notebook or laptop computer. It’s truly a PC that allows you to go on the plane, go on the bus. It’s got local storage, local applications, it is a notebook PC.”

While demonstrating the growing pervasiveness of computing technology in the home, Gates announced that additional hardware makers — Gateway and Alienware — plan to manufacture new media-center PCs for the living room, all loaded with Windows XP Media Center Edition.


for Notetaking,


for Personal Devices

Gates also introduced a new Microsoft Office application, Microsoft OneNote, which is designed to allow users to capture the fruits of their notetaking in one place and organize their notes more effectively.

On desktop and laptop computers, OneNote will allow users to compile notes from virtually any source into a single location, format the information in a way that’s useful, and share it with colleagues. With OneNote on a Tablet PC, users can write notes directly on the screen and then organize and format that text, search through it, or attach associated video and audio files.

Gates also introduced Smart Personal Object Technology, or SPOT, as an illustration of the wide variety of computing form-factors Microsoft would, in Gates’ words,
“like to bring intelligence to.”
On display were a number of small items — a watch, refrigerator magnets, a watch, an alarm clock — that are able to take basic information and relate that to users’ needs. The alarm clock, for instance, is able to display weather and traffic information individually tailored to it’s owner’s particular morning commute.
“The simplicity and the low cost are part of the concept,”
Gates noted.

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