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Ballmer touts Microsoft vision

The Microsoft executive espouses the benefits of an integrated set of software tools in opening the company's TechEd conference.

NEW ORLEANS--Microsoft executive vice president Steve Ballmer laid the foundation for future company technologies and espoused the benefits of an integrated set of software tools on the opening day of the company's TechEd conference here.

Eschewing talk of the company's current antitrust woes for a technology focus, Ballmer touted the benefits and improvements made possible because of the Windows platform. He also said Microsoft has a lot of work to do before its vision for the Windows operating system and accompanying applications is complete.

"Windows has a long way to go before we will consider it done," he told a packed hall. "We feel the need to push, push, push."

He said openness, innovation, and integration will continue to drive software development at the firm, despite criticism from competitors and recent legal action that run contrary to these beliefs. "We think these are the right guiding principles for Windows," Ballmer stressed.

Beyond a few light-hearted quips directed at the Justice Department, Ballmer avoided comment on the ongoing lawsuit between Microsoft and the federal government concerning the integration of the Internet Explorer Web browsing software with the company's dominant client operating system.

Ballmer's presentation also served as a forum for previews of Microsoft technology to be released with the next update to the Office suite of client software that runs on top of Windows. The next version, likely called "Office 2000," will roll out by the end of this year or early next year, according to Ballmer.

A key component of the upgrade will be new tracking and data analysis capabilities, the executive added.

New functions will allow the Access client database and Excel spreadsheet program that is bundled with Office to interoperate with the release of the server-side SQL Server 7.0 database. The new Excel capabilities will allow the software to manipulate data residing in high-end "data marts" or "data warehouses."

A limited beta of the Office upgrade will be released soon, Ballmer said.

He stressed that within three to four years PC technology will be sufficient to handle the needs of the largest corporations, given the road map for the company's corporate Windows NT operating system and the improvements in chip technology from Intel.

Throughout the keynote speech, Ballmer frequently returned to a unifying theme. "We know you're looking for a level of integration in our products," he said.

As part of the conference's developer focus, the company also rolled out several new third-party initiatives:

  • An agreement with Iona Technologies to deliver increased integration between that firm's OrbixOTM software and Microsoft Transaction Server.

  • A deal with Visual Edge Software to license Microsoft's COM development software for Unix.

  • Plans to integrate Microsoft Transaction Server with ACMS from Digital Equipment, tying the Microsoft technology to Digital's Open VMS and Digital Unix operating system software.

    The moves are part of an effort to encourage developers to build enterprise-class corporate applications using Microsoft technology. The software giant also unveiled a revamped certification process for third-party interoperability with BackOffice, its suite of server-side applications.

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