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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 07:30 GMT
Gates talks up the tech sector
Las Vegas gambling strip, BBC
Las Vegas hosts the US computer dealers' conference
David Schepp

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has declared the first 10 years of the new millennium the "digital decade", despite what many view as troubled times within the technology industry.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at Comdex, BBC
Gates believes Windows XP "will light a fire of innovation"
Speaking on Sunday night before thousands gathered in Las Vegas for the annual meeting of computer dealers, or Comdex, Mr Gates said his firm's latest relaunch of its Windows operating system was the best-selling software product ever.

"In just two weeks since the global launch of Windows XP, Microsoft has already sold an amazing seven million copies of Windows XP," he said.

The total includes retail sales of Windows XP to consumers, as well as sales to personal computer (PC) manufacturers for installation on newly made computers.

Mr Gates said his firm believed Windows XP, along with other Microsoft product launches, "will light a fire of innovation across the entire technology industry".

Repeated refrain

The prospect of a recovering technology sector was flagged up several times during the day as analysts and industry officials weighed in with their comments about the effects of a slowing United States economy and the 11 September terror attacks.

The oft-repeated refrain about the "new economy" being different from the old one was again being trumpeted, said Gary Beach, publisher at CXO Media, who spoke to reporters just prior to Mr Gates' keynote address.

Mr Beach said there was once again talk of vibrancy within the tech sector.

A bevy of analysts and industry insiders for the most part agreed with Mr Beach, calling for a partial recovery in the industry by 2002 and a brighter future beyond.

New role

The important role of software in the re-emerging tech-sector industry takes on a new meaning given the events of 11 September, said Crawford DelPrete, senior vice president of hardware research at IDC.

Mr DelPrete said software would be fundamentally changed due to the terror attacks in New York and Washington, which have left as many as 4,800 people presumed dead.

New security and privacy concerns had altered the software landscape, he said, adding that he expected the software sector to be "pretty well recovered" by 2002.

In his keynote speech at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mr Gates heralded "a 30-fold increase in e-commerce spending over the next 10 years, a quadrupling of the number of e-mail addresses and even faster growth in instant messaging (IM)".

New type of computer

During his speech, Mr Gates also unveiled the latest version of his company's operating system software called Microsoft Windows for tablet PCs, a type of computer that utilises an electronic pen and relies on character-recognition software instead of a keyboard to create documents.

"The tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available wherever you want it," he said, calling it a computer "virtually without limits - and within five years I predict will be the most popular form of PC sold in America".

Mr Gates also unveiled several other Microsoft initiatives aimed at helping companies customise products to individual customers and offer those products over the internet.

The programme, which employs Microsoft's .Net technology, uses Microsoft's Office suite of business software to connect to the web to tailor products, such as expense reports.

He ended his presentation with a sneak peak at Microsoft's new Xbox gaming console due to be launch later this week in New York.

The Xbox, designed to compete with products such as PlayStation, is Microsoft's first stab at the lucrative gaming market, which consists mainly of males in their teens and 20s.

Mr Gates said the products already unveiled at the Comdex show were developed with the idea of improving productivity, with the effect of taking computing into a new and exciting era.

"The digital decade is here now," he said. "And it will touch and improve the lives of every single on of us."

See also:

07 Nov 01 | Business
Top tech event dwindles
25 Oct 01 | Business
PC makers hope for XP boost
16 Oct 01 | Business
Bust dot.coms anger investors
27 Sep 01 | Business
Nasdaq suspends stock delistings
17 Nov 00 | Business
It's chic to be geek
13 Nov 00 | Business
High-tech paradise 2000
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