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Gates gets updated Windows Mobile moving

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announces an update to the company's mobile device operating system as well as the latest version of its speech software.

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced on Wednesday an update to the company's mobile device operating system as well as the latest version of its speech software.

Gates' announcement came at a conference here, during a speech that followed the European Union's decision to fine the software giant $613 million for violating antitrust law. The EU also ordered the unbundling of Windows Media Player from Microsoft's market-dominating operating system. Gates did not mention the case during his keynote, and representatives said . Gates spent Tuesday night working on his presentation.

Gates addressed a combined audience made up of developers attending the VSLive show, the Microsoft Mobile Developer Conference and the Applied Voice Input/Output Society SpeechTek Spring 2004 confab.

"The focus today will be on how mobility-, Web services-, speech- and location-type capabilities are going to come in and be aspects of applications--and yet that can be done using the same tools and languages that (developers) are familiar with," Gates said.

Gates added that all the efforts announced Wednesday are part of a seamless computing theme that involves having information available through applications that connect hardware and software, a goal the company's "record level (research and development) budgets are going after."

Gates announced and demonstrated speech, mobile and developer software.

Microsoft Speech Server 2004 is now available, as Microsoft continues to woo businesses toward speech technology. To do this, the company has tied Web, speech and telephony features together to improve call center support for businesses.

As previously reported, the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition update adds support for higher-resolution VGA (video graphics array) displays. The new software also allows for devices that can quickly shift from landscape to portrait mode. Microsoft is also adding support for square screen sizes, a move that mimics the approach of the rival Palm operating system and paves the way for smaller devices that incorporate a keyboard.

The company has tweaked its pocket Internet Explorer browser to allow Web pages to be read in a single column, eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling--a feature that's also reminiscent of Palm-based devices.

"We continue to learn from both our customers and our competitors," said Ed Suwanjindar, Microsoft lead product manager. "We definitely strive to both set the standard and meet the standard that's out there."

In addition to the Windows Mobile announcement and the speech server software, Gates introduced a "Community Technical Preview" version of the company's forthcoming Visual Studio 2005 developer software. A final version of the product, formerly code-named Whidbey, was originally set to ship later this year but has been delayed until the first half of 2005.