Bill Gates’ INDIA Visit The .NET Emphasis

Shortly
after he landed, Gates was whisked away to the Maurya Sheraton Towers, where he
first met 12 CEOs of top multinational firms. A CEOs’ dinner to mark the
silver jubilee of Microsoft Corp and 10 years of Microsoft India followed the
closed-door meeting.

The silver jubilee celebration event was slated to begin at
8.00 PM, but by the time he finished the meeting with the CEOs, it was 9.45 PM.
The function finally got underway at 10.00 PM.

At the event, attended by the chieftains of the IT industry
and user industries, Gates spoke at length about Microsoft’s .NET initiative.
"The .NET initiative is to GUI (graphical user interface) what GUI was to
DOS," he declared. Gates emphasized on ‘collaborative computing’,
which, according to him, would make the shape of things to come. "Microsoft
is working towards technologies so that documents can be easily read and
absorbed directly from the screen, including annotations and form factors, so
that users don’t have to take prints and work on them. Users should be able to
work directly on the screen. It should also be possible for users to talk as
well as share screens so that real-time communication can happen and true
collaborative computing can occur," he said.

Formally announcing his company’s .NET strategy in India at
a press conference, Gates said, "India will play an important role in our
overall .NET strategy." The India Development Center, for one, is working
on a strategic technology piece of the .NET platform and building a key product
for the same. This product will provide functional frameworks for the .NET
platform.

Gates also announced that the company would be investing over
$50 million on the development activities of the center over the next three
years, and triple the capacity of the lab within the same time frame–way more
than the $1 million that Gates promised the last time he was in India, three
years ago.

On the India Development Center, Gates said, "I am
impressed with the talent we have in our India Development Center and the
quality of software they are developing. The center is making an invaluable
contribution to the development of the .NET platform."

Gates said .NET was an exciting bet. ".NET is about
personalization, identity and notification. It’s about software. Its about
making the PC dramatically easier to use than it is today. This vision won’t
happen overnight. But we are working on it. Developers are working on the
platform currently and soon they will come out with innovative products."
Microsoft will be investing $2 billion on the .NET program within the next two
years.

.Net product plans

Microsoft has plans for new products built on the .NET
platform, including new generations of the Microsoft Windows operating system,
Windows DNA servers, Microsoft Office and the MSN network of Internet services.
Through the Visual Studio development system, Microsoft will also provide a
framework for developers to build a new breed of smart Internet devices.

Another initiative that Gates announced was Microsoft’s
portal, MSN, which will now be available in India as msn.co.in. The
India-specific portal will have eight channels and over 30 content providers,
and would offer information on news, business, sports, entertainment and
weather.

On the Linux threat, Gates said, "The software market is
competitive and Microsoft has faced many challenges. Linux is one of the lesser
competitors. Our main competition is our own installed base. People comfortable
with a Windows operating system would not like to shift to another one, so we
have to introduce new software with upgraded features regularly."

An evening with Gates

The evening got rolling with Sanjay Parthsarthy, managing
director, Microsoft India, talking about the company’s various milestones in
the 10 years that it has been operating in India. The Windows 95 and the Windows
2000 had seen near riotous situations due to the great interest from people who
wanted to attend the launch. He talked about the first order for 100 DOS
packages that Microsoft received and the company’s relentless fight against
piracy, assisted by Nasscom.

Gates fondly remembered the last 25 years of Microsoft’s
existence. How the focus of the world was on hardware and not on software, and
how the computer technology was restricted to big users and developed countries.
He recollected his vision, of millions of computers on desktops, of high-volume
low-cost computing, and of software being the engine to achieve that. Starting
with the BASIC programming language, he went on to recall the times when PCs ran
on MS-DOS and the difference in approach that IBM and Microsoft had regarding
making available the operating system technology to manufacturers of PCs. There
were a lot many other things he talked about–the work on GUI which was
introduced in 1985 but became acceptable only in 1990; the launch of Windows 95
and the shift to browser technologies even when Windows 95 was at its peak.

What has kept Microsoft going? Gates said it has been the
excitement of having created some of the "most powerful tools that mankind
has ever seen". And what sustains the same excitement is the fact that
there is much more ahead, he said.

The Internet and the browsing technology have revolutionized
IT. Gates pointed out that this has happened through the use of TCP/IP and HTML
technologies. The next challenge is to find new uses for the PC. Photos, music,
videos are all becoming digital and the technology must allow full power to
manipulate these. Another challenge is that the present interface, the keyboard,
will give way to newer technologies–handwriting recognition and speech
recognition.

Gates concluded by talking about the importance of India for
Microsoft. He said he had been especially impressed by the changes that had
taken place since his last visit to India. Microsoft was looking at India as a
source of development, directly as well as through partners. He added that there
was a tremendous shortage of computer skills in the world and it was India,
which foresaw this and stepped in to fill the gap.

Some of the IT and media heads present at the occasion were
Saurabh Srivastava of IIS, Ajay Chowdhary of HCL, RS Pawar of NIIT, Ashank Desai
of Mastech, Pradeep Kar of Indya.com, Vineet Jain of Times of India, Peter
Mukherjee of Star TV and Pradeep Gupta of Cyber Media India. From the user
industry, there were representatives from Gail, Escorts, Indo Asian Switchgear,
Stock Holders Corp of India, National Insurance, Indian Oil and ministry of
defense.

A DQ report

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