COMDEX: Gates demos TabletPC, Office 10, VS.NET

Live from Las Vegas: Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect did his part to explain .NET to the masses Sunday, providing demonstrations of a future TabletPC, Office 10, and Visual Studio.NET along the way. Gates said that the TabletPC would offer "rich" ink functionality that you could use for on-screen note taking. The units, which were running on Transmeta chips, were available to the press after the keynote, and I got to spend some time with one of them. I was told to expect them from a variety of OEMs by 2002, with Microsoft sticking to the software side of the business.

"Microsoft was founded 25 years ago on the passionate belief that software can empower people to achieve great things," Gates said. "Software remains at the center of every exciting development on the Web. Smarter devices, smarter servers and great new Web services can work together only through the magic of software. Software is at the heart of making this next generation of the Internet a quantum leap in power, flexibility and agility."

Office 10, meanwhile, got a nice public rollout with a demonstration of its cool new "Smart Tags" feature, which graphically exposes functionality in Office documents. For example, Office 10 can instantly recognize a name in a Word document as an Outlook contact and mark that text with a tag that can be used to send that person an email message. Office 10 will likely be called Office 2002 by the time it is generally available.

Visual Studio.NET also got a quick run-through, which probably went over the heads of most of the 12,000 in attendance, most of whom were not developers. But Gates mentioned that VS.NET Beta 1 was available for download from the Web, a bit of an exaggeration: MSDN Universal subscribers can download VS.NET Beta 1, but other users will have to order the CD version, which costs about $13 and could take up to four weeks to arrive. Gates said that both Office 10 and VS.NET would be available late in Q2 2001.

You can order the VS.NET CD from the MSDN Web site

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