Gates: Mobility will be Fastest Growing MS Business

Microsoft has committed to extending mobile
capabilities to nearly every aspect of its business; Chairman and Chief Software Architect
Bill Gates told a full house at his keynote Wednesday at its Microsoft Mobility Developer
Conference 2003.

The company’s inaugural conference specifically on this topic was co-located with the
CTIA Wireless 2003 show in New Orleans.

“This business is something that probably will be the fastest growing of all of our
businesses,” Gates said.

Gates said the key to the strategy is devices in all form factors working together
intelligently to create a rich user experience. That doesn’t just mean PDAs and
Smartphones, he said. It includes large-screen wall panels designed to be viewed from a
distance and operated by remote control, the new Tablet PCs powered by Microsoft,
Microsoft’s Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) watches, even desktops which can
interact with Smartphones.

Microsoft is positioning its .NET Framework to pull it all together, allowing all of the various
form factors to operate on the same platform. A subset of the .NET Framework, the .NET
Compact Framework, is designed for the lower-power devices like PDAs and Smartphones.
The plan is to support mobile applications ranging from field sales to mobile gaming,
delivery routing and field service.

A subset of the .NET Compact Framework serves as a platform for the SPOT watches,
which operate on a one-way network somewhat akin to pagers, driving information like
weather or traffic alerts to the devices.

By creating a single platform, Gates said Microsoft aims to simplify the jobs of developers
by allowing them to leverage existing skills and make it easy to extend existing applications
into a mobile ecosystem. To that end, he said the next version of Visual Studio, Visual
Studio .NET 2003, will ship with support for the .NET Compact Framework. The
development environment is slated for release on April 24.

“We’re in a significant investment mode, and we’re going to invest and invest and invest
until we get the best platform,” Gates said.

All of this builds upon Microsoft’s investment in XML Web services — the technology
behind its .NET Framework — which now pervades every aspect of the company’s

“Web services is something Microsoft has really bet its whole strategy around,” Gates said.

He added, “This essentially is the infrastructure that will fulfill the promises of the Internet
from the late 90s and early part of this decade. XML Web services are a perfect fit for
mobile devices which allow code on a device to go and get services remotely.”

Gates urged the developers attending the conference to dive in early, noting that it is the
developers that begin early that will be in a position to capitalize on the rising wave of
mobility solutions utilizing Wi-Fi (define), Bluetooth and cellular data technology like GPRS

“The success we’ve had depends upon partners building tools,” he said, adding that Microsoft has created a program under which it will
provide 25,000 developers with Pocket PC devices. He also said its Smartphone Developer Kit will include a device.