At issue is XML (Extensible Markup Language), the Web standard for information exchange that proponents say easily allows businesses to connect to one another electronically, so they can communicate and conduct trades online.
The technology lies at the heart of Microsoft's .Net plans, which aim to make software available as a service over the Web to PCs and handheld devices, such as cell phones. Gates on Thursday said Microsoft intends to make multiple XML announcements at its annual Professional Developers Conference for software programmers.
"We will reveal a lot of new information about the XML protocols--standards--that Microsoft is doing itself in the .Net framework and some industry partnerships around XML," Gates said during Microsoft's annual financial analyst meeting at company headquarters here. "I think developers will view that (as) an impactful event."
Microsoft shares the same vision of Web-based software and services with rival software makers, such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and BEA Systems. Microsoft, however, supports a programming model that steers businesses to use its tools and software. Sun, Oracle, IBM and dozens of other companies support their own model based on the Java programming language.
Both camps are courting software developers in what has become a religious war.
The software companies backing Java support XML in different, sometimes incompatible ways, Gates said. "We think of (them) as individual competitors" and not as one big block, he said.
"Over time, I expect our competitors will catch up on XML standards," said Gates, who added that he believed IBM, which has worked on building XML standards with Microsoft, has the best support out of all of the Java companies.
Microsoft and IBM teamed with other companies to create several XML-based standards, including SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), which would serve as a common communications format that links the different programming models, allowing businesses with different computing systems to connect and conduct transactions, regardless of the model used. The pair also worked together on UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration), which lets businesses register in an online directory aimed at helping companies advertise their Web-based services, and find one another, so they can conduct Web transactions.
During Microsoft's annual software developers conference, Gates said Microsoft would also provide the latest news of the next version of the company's software development tools, called Visual Studio.Net. The tool, which will ship by year's end, will allow programmers to build Web-based software and services.