Microsoft head Bill Gates has staged another battle in the war of Microsoft versus the network computer (NC), preaching the virtues of Microsoft's recently announced NetPC and its Zero Administration Windows system.
"Microsoft has two top priorities that will make it easy to manage a set of PCs and to deploy software," said Gates in a keynote address at Gartner Group's European Symposium/ITxpo 96.
"The first is Zero Admin Windows, to keep the unique administration tasks on the server. What we call Zero Admin Windows is something we will roll out in the second half of 97," Gates says.
The NetPC is Microsoft's other top priority, says Gates. The NetPC is Microsoft's competitive response to the network computer, or NC, backed by Oracle and other vendors.
Last week Microsoft announced the NetPC when Microsoft vice-president Paul Maritz confirmed that users will be able to boot Microsoft's device from either its hard drive or the network.
On the same day, Microsoft also announced its Zero Administration initiative to put systems control back in the hands of centralised IS administrators. A main feature of the NetPC is that, through Zero Admin Windows, the device will update itself automatically when the computer is booted and will seek the latest code and drivers from a server, intranet, or the Internet, Microsoft says.
"The key difference between an NC and a NetPC with Zero Admin Windows is that an NC does not run today's applications, it says 'Rewrite all your applications', something which users aren't going to want to do or wait for, Gates says.
Continuing his campaign to refute that NCs are cheap to maintain, he points out that although the cost of an individual NC may be lower than the cost of a PC, there are server and administration costs involved with NCs. "It's just that the administration is all done on the server", which leads people to think that NCs are uncomplicated and inexpensive.
"We don't burden the network or the server. Ninety-five percent of your requests are serviced locally with the NetPC. NCs will be like Unix," Gates says. "The OS will be different. You'll find yourself getting the same level of portability as in the Unix world."
On other issues, Gates says that although Microsoft is working to make NT 64-bit compatible, it will not require users to have 64-bit processors to run NT in the future.
"We won't require 64-bit machines for new versions of NT. NT will continue to target today's 32-bit machines," Gates says.
And, Microsoft will continue to focus development efforts improving human interaction with computers.
"Of our US$2 billion spent annually in research and development, a significant amount is going into natural interaction, such as voice recognition and PCs that can see and recognise users", Gates says.