In a speech to a Japanese audience Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has predicted that within one year his company will "conquer" the high end of the OS market and said that within 10 years it will integrate speech and handwriting recognition into its OS.
Speaking at the second day of a Microsoft developers conference here, Gates also said that making better Web site development tools is the "guaranteed opportunity" for new software businesses. Gates responded to an audience question asking what type of business he would start if he weren't running Microsoft.
The Microsoft head, on a tour of Microsoft's Asian operations this week, said that the Windows OS has defied sceptics over the last 10 years and will continue to do so in the future.
Gates pointed to Microsoft's quest to strengthen its Windows NT OS to better compete with high-end systems, though he didn't specifically mention the current king of that market segment, the Unix OS. Unix today has many fiercely loyal followers who criticise Windows NT as not robust enough for high-end workstations and server applications.
"Today the skeptics are only in the very very high end ... in the next year we'll conquer that," he said confidently.
Two areas Gates said Microsoft is boosting Windows in are the OS's scalability and reliability. He explained that "we know that Windows platform needs to go beyond any existing platform in these two respects."
Gates touted his company's work, saying that using Windows NT as the base Microsoft has built systems that can process 1 billion transactions in a day, which he said is "far more than any company needs today."
In addition Gates said "simplicity" is another guiding principle in Microsoft's OS development. After spending a day reviewing error messages that Windows displays to users, "even I couldn't understand a great number of them so I felt a great sympathy for customers," Gates said. Making PCs easier to use "is an area that is ripe for innovation," he concluded.
That need for simplicity will make speech and handwriting recognition "standard features of the operating system," he answered when asked what users can expect from Windows in 10 years. "Devices that use it will be far more approachable than the PC is today," he concluded.
The thrust of Gates' speech was Microsoft's view that companies should use networks and systems to integrate employees, customers and partners into what it calls "digital nervous systems."
The key point of the concept is that companies can boost their competitiveness by using computers and networks to disperse more information both internally and to partners so that "information, good and bad, will be there for everybody to see very easily," he said. "I don't think any company is achieving the full potential today, even Microsoft," he said.
Gate's otherwise smooth keynote was interrupted briefly by a sound problem in one video. After standing in darkness waiting for the sound to come on a video playing above him, Gates walked off stage. Forgetting his microphone was still on, the Microsoft head unwittingly said in exasperation for all to hear, "We can just come back -- skip it -- I mean -- Jesus!"
Back on stage with the lights up Gates joked, "Unfortunately it's not a PC system that controls the (video's) sound."