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Gates defends the PC
November 13, 2000: 2:32 a.m. ET

Microsoft chairman defends PC as alternative devices take center stage
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LAS VEGAS (CNNfn) - It's the software, stupid.

That was the message Microsoft chairman Bill Gates gave in his keynote address kicking off the Comdex technology show here Sunday night. Speaking before an audience of roughly 12,000 people, Gates defended the personal computer as an important part of the tomorrow's technology landscape but acknowledged that it is changing.

The future of the PC in a time when some believe so-called "information appliances" are fast becoming the computing devices of choice has come into question before at Comdex, North America's largest and best known technology trade show. And in light of the explosion of information appliances - a term used to describe any non-PC device that is used for Internet access -- it's already shaping up to be a hot topic this year.

Among others with a vested interest in the PC, Gates has been one of the most vocal supporters of its role in the next age of computing. After all, Microsoft's Widows operating system is installed on the vast majority of the world's PCs, and Gates, 44, has built a multi billion-dollar empire around it.

But at Comdex in recent years, the PC has taken a back seat to the host of other products people are using these days to get connected. And a glance through this year's exhibitor list shows that the trend is continuing.

Although Gates did use the keynote to demonstrate some of Microsoft's latest PC-related software, including an upcoming version of Office and a prototype of a "tablet PC," his address centered on the changes that are taking place in the industry.

"We're at a very key transition point," Gates said. "There are going to be lots of devices, but a new model that makes them work together. It is going to require an architecture approach that is different than what we have today."

And that approach will be centered on software technology, Gates says -- specifically, a software technology called XML. That stands for Extensible Markup Language, and it allows for the exchange of data across different software platforms. It's also a big part of Microsoft's '.NET' strategy, through which it is aiming to extend its Windows franchise onto the Internet.

Of course, Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) is not the only one promoting a "platform-agnostic" computing model for the next phase of the Internet era. Sun Microsystems Inc.'s (SUNW: Research, Estimates) "Java" programming language also works on any number of devices and stands as a major rival to Microsoft's .NET vision. Sun, among others, envisions a future where all the computing power is on the network and applications can be accessed through a range of devices, including wireless phones.

In Gates' vision of the computing future, the PC, as well as Microsoft's operating systems and software applications, still play a pivotal role. But he acknowledges that there will be a proliferation of other devices that will become increasingly important.

While these new computing devices will become increasingly connected and more powerful, Gates contended that the PC would remain the primary device for creativity and communication for business users and consumers.

Gates' keynote was the first event of the week-long Comdex event, which organizers boast will have more than 200,000 visitors and 2,100 exhibitors this year. Back to top