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A chat with Uncle Bill

Bill Gates flew to San Francisco to launch the latest component of his Web services initiative earlier this month, CW360.com met him there.

Gates is certainly a more impressive figurehead than Steve Ballmer [who is running Microsoft on a day-to-day basis as chief executive], which is probably why he made the keynote speech for the launch of Visual Studio earlier this month. The product, which is Microsoft's long-awaited software development tool for Web services, has been in beta test for more than a year and, while waiting for it to ship Gates has been busy talking up the initiative.

"With Visual Studio you'll see a ton of things go online that have been done through paper or phone calls or through very inefficient processes without much visibility to date," Gates says. "It's a change for how business is done, and makes all business models more efficient."

This idea of making software more efficient and easily accessible is great on the surface, but one of Microsoft's problems is that its software has been all-too accessible of late. A series of embarrassing security flaws has caused the industry to recoil from the company's "software as a service" business model, worried about having insecure software constantly connected to the Net....

Gates countered with: "A lot of the vulnerabilities come at the application layer and so helping developers understand these issues as they write their applications is important, particularly as you get into privacy. That's not so much a platform thing as a question of administering things - who has what rights to information and so on."

And what about Linux, which Gates identified as a key threat in a memo a year or two ago? "Linux is a kernel operating system and the kernel is such a small piece of what you get in a platform right now that you wouldn't say that Linux is a competitor," Gates says. "There are people who build things on top of Linux that compete with us but Linux is a small enough part of the platform you could say that it's a commoditised piece."

It is the people building things on top of Linux that Gates should be worried about. Ximian, for example, is building an open source version of the .net framework that will run on Linux. This represents serious competition to Microsoft, which undoubtedly hopes that most people will run their implementations on the Windows platform. Microsoft has built a FreeBSD version of Linux, but this is more of a publicity gig than a serious endeavour. [Possibly an error by the writer?]

News source: CW360

View: On the campaign with Big Bill

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