Best days ahead for tech, MS says

It's a wrap. Microsoft's developer conference, Tech-Ed 2003, drew 78 speakers and 1250 paid-up attendees to Auckland's Aotea Centre this week.

It’s a wrap. Microsoft’s developer conference, Tech-Ed 2003, drew 78 speakers and 1250 paid-up attendees to Auckland’s Aotea Centre this week.

But although the crowds told one story about Microsoft’s success attracting developers, behind the scenes company executives were busy fielding questions about the Blaster worm and the future of the IT industry.

Cliff Reeves, general manager of Microsoft’s platform strategy group, was keen to dismiss claims from US observers that the IT industry had reached a state of “maturity” and would be less inventive in future. “The best days, in terms of technology, are still ahead of us,” he says.

Reeves says IT companies were affected in turn by the hype of the internet bubble, the dot-com crash and a worldwide economic slump.

“It cuts new development, and new development excites IT,” he says. “You’re seeing a cutback in discretionary spending in development.”

Ideas are now more likely to come from business-minded people, rather than technologists, he says.

Instead of rebuilding systems, Reeves says companies are again focusing on productivity. “The best application is the one you don’t have to write, or you already own,” he says, touting web services as a tool to link together the core systems a company already owns.

“People are building a layer of value, breathing new life into those old systems.”

He acknowledges, however, that IT development is unlikely to rebound to its old levels.

“It’ll be a while before we see the heady days of the 90s again,” Reeves says. “I think it’ll take a while before we see as many Ferraris in Silicon Valley.”

Mike Glass, a senior director of the platform strategy group, says conference attendees would be introduced to some of the new APIs that would arrive with the next major version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn.

“All of the interfaces in Longhorn are managed interfaces,” he says. “You get a common API that’s available to third parties.”

Glass and Reeves rejected a suggestion that existing APIs could be changed in Longhorn to break software from competing companies. “Everything is open,” Reeves says, adding that the process of documenting APIs was monitored by the US government.

Microsoft was too busy building features to use resources breaking other software, he says. “Seriously, we don’t have the ability for that.”

Paranoia? “I do believe it’s paranoia, yeah.”

Longhorn will have its “coming-out party” at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in October, Glass says.

Although by the opening day of the conference it had become apparent that the storm of traffic from Windows machines infected with the Blaster worm had not had the impact predicted, Microsoft NZ managing director Ross Peat still noted that the worm “is clearly a sign that we have challenges ahead”.

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