San Francisco - Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates promoted Windows strengths in both online and print publishing in a keynote address today at Seybold San Francisco. He also talked about Microsoft's work on the Macintosh and spoke extensively about his vision of the future of the World Wide Web.
Speaking to a crowd of about 3,000 at Moscone Center, the Microsoft chief said of Web authoring on Windows: "There are issues that simply come with the platform. Some of these areas Microsoft is definitely playing catch-up, and other ones I think we're moving up front."
Gates said Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0, both due in the first half of 1998, "are a big step forward in our authoring development." Two key publishing technologies that will be incorporated in the operating systems, Microsoft said, are color management and OpenType, the company's font initiative co-developed with Adobe Systems Inc.
Gates invited Kevin Connor, product marketing manager of Adobe, to demonstrate the new publishing capabilities of Windows NT 5. "Everybody who has ever doubted that plug-and-play can be a reality on Windows, this demo is for you," Connor said. He plugged a scanner into the USB port of a Intel-standard PC, and the operating system recognized the new hardware device and automatically installed the device driver and color profile. Then, when Connor hit the device's scan button, the system automatically launched Adobe Photoshop and brought in the image.
Despite the usefulness of Web sites, Gates said, they also pose "a huge information management problem. It's no longer good enough to just have a high-speed HTTP server" - noting that Microsoft's Internet Information Server is integrated into NT. Users now want electronic commerce, credit card transactions and security features for Web sites, he said, and he commended those companies offering database tools for those purposes. Yet content management remains a critical issue, Gates said. "Although it's improved a lot, there's still a lot to be done."
Gates said cross-platform issues remain important, and he said the company continues to work to integrate Mac OS systems into NT environments: "That's a piece of code we're constantly getting input on." He said Microsoft believes in supporting mixed environments, and "that's an area where we'll continue to add features."
Microsoft is pleased to be working collaboratively with Apple again, he said, and pointed out that in the early 1980s Microsoft had more people working on Mac applications than Apple had people working on the Macintosh.
"That was a very great collaboration," he said, "and it's great to see - with the new agreement and the investment included as part of that - some of that spirit and collaboration coming back into the work between the two companies."
Specifically, Gates cited the team of developers working on Internet Explorer for the Macintosh as well as Microsoft Office.
"With Microsoft Office, the last release there didn't do a great job of taking advantage of the Macintosh," he said. The next release, which Gates said will be available by the end of the year, "will certainly reverse any notion that we're not doing a really first-class job on the Office environment on the Macintosh platform."
Microsoft Group Product Manager Tom Johnston demonstrated dynamic HTML running on a beta version of Internet Explorer 4.0 for the Macintosh, and he said the final version will ship by the end of the year. Johnston also showed a version of Internet Explorer 4 for Windows using the emerging Extensible Markup Language (XML) standard, which he said will provide "granular updates" without requiring content providers to refresh an entire page when data changes. "I think XML is really a breakthrough," Gates said.
In a question-and-answer session following the address, Seybold Seminars founder Jonathan Seybold asked if the absence of any discussion of Java during Gates' address was an accident. "Well, I didn't mention C, VisualBasic, Cobol or Pascal," Gates joked. "I'm a programmer; I love programming languages."
He said Java is a great language, "but when you look at serious applications, we think users want applications that exploit their operating system. People care about their platforms; they want the platforms exploited." Gates said Java is nice for developers, "but how do users feel? We doubt that successful applications will go down that path."