Gates appeared at the Networld+Interop conference here to discuss Microsoft's role in the future of the Internet, as well as highlight Windows 2000 as an operating system that can help expand the reach of e-commerce.
"The Internet will change more dramatically in the next five years than it has in its entire history," he said. "We've just seen the beginning of what the Internet can do for us as a revolution in communications."
Comment on the landmark antitrust case was noticeably absent from the chairman's speech, considering the software giant tomorrow will release its response to the government's proposal to divide it. Instead, Gates focused on the role of security and Windows products in the computing industry as the market moves from PCs to portable devices such as wireless phones and handhelds.
In light of recent virus attacks, Gates made a point to show that Windows 2000 is a secure system businesses can rely on when building a presence on the Web. New software tools in the works underline the company's commitment to security, Gates said.
It's a message Microsoft executives have continually repeated as the company faces new challenges from Web-based devices and alternative operating systems, such as Linux, and from alternative programming models that use the Java language.
Gates called on the computer industry to follow Microsoft's lead and start building smart cards into their technology to resolve security concerns.
Smart cards hold personal information, such as computer passwords. Gates envisions a future where a person can simply slip a smart card into a computer--as opposed to remembering dozens of passwords--to access corporate networks.
"Today the weakest link in security management is the fact that passwords are used to identify who is running the system. People are writing them down and using the same passwords on systems that are less secure," he said.
Gates also unveiled updated software that allows Windows to communicate and work with the Unix operating system. The software, Microsoft Windows Services for Unix 2.0, is aimed at companies that use both operating systems.
The chairman also hailed XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for exchanging data, as a key component to the Internet's future. Proponents say XML will allow companies to easily and cheaply conduct online transactions with customers and partners.
Microsoft has been building XML support into all its software. The Internet is mostly PC- and Web browser-centric, allowing people to grab data from only one Web site at a time. With XML, people can get information from multiple sites and on different devices, such as cell phones.
Gates said the language "will form the foundation of the digital economy."