Gates Looks to Assure Wall Street

REDMOND, WASHINGTON (07/27/2000) - Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates pitched his .NET concept to Wall Street here Thursday, offering a glimpse of the software giant's future to the analysts who make "buy" or "sell" recommendations on its stock.

The message from Gates, also the company's chief software architect, did not stray far from others made since he and other Microsoft executives unveiled the Microsoft .NET strategy last month at Forum 2000.

Gates told about 200 financial analysts that the "next-generation Internet" will rely heavily on XML, because the language offers an easy way to present a wide variety of rich data. .NET relies on services such as Microsoft's Passport, which stores a user's personal information for use on a variety of Web sites, and are available on a wide array of devices, such as Pocket PCs and mobile phones.

"The Internet, as we know it today, allows people to lose control of how they use their time," Gates said. "An e-mail comes in, and it could be junk mail or it could be important ... . If you want to know what is going on with a stock price change, or if a flight has been delayed, you have nothing working on your behalf to let you know what you do want to know, and filter out those things that don't matter.

"XML is the final solution to the interoperability problem," Gates said.

It is strategic for Microsoft to convince the financial community that .NET is a viable direction for the company, and the daylong conference was the latest in a string of events designed to woo a key constituency.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft touted the technical aspects of .NET at its Professional Developers Conference and then aimed .NET toward resellers and other partners at its Fusion 2000 conference.

Hardware and software vendors also much embrace .NET in order for the plan to succeed, and broadband and wireless communications must improve greatly. Gates said he was confident that would happen, comparing the shift in strategy to the move Microsoft made from DOS to Windows.

Such innovations are taking place today, Gates said. For example, earlier this week Microsoft announced that its instant messaging software will include long-distance calling capabilities.

"Real-time communications today -- except for young people who do a lot of instant messaging -- is only around 10 percent right now," Gates said. "This [eventually] will be 40 percent to 50 percent of the time on the PC."

Another piece of .NET is the Digital Dashboard, a customizable portal that, via Web services, will allow users to aggregate a wide variety of data from different sources into one view, on both PCs and portable devices.

"Fortunately, no one is building the platform and thinking about this in quite the way we are," Gates said.

Bob Trott is an InfoWorld associate news editor based in Seattle.

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