With a nod toward what could well be its new corporate slogan--"any time, any place, any device"--Microsoft Corporation unveiled its 1999 annual report. The news, as one might expect, is good.
"Microsoft continued to perform strongly in 1999," CEO Bill Gates writes in the letter to shareholders. "Our customers count on us to provide great software that helps them communicate more effectively, work more productively, learn more creatively, and make the most of their leisure time. We worked hard to meet those needs and to set the standard for features, functionality, simplicity, and seamless integration with the Internet in all of our products. The result was remarkable growth and record revenue."
Indeed, the company reported net income of $7.79 billion on revenue of $19.75 billion for fiscal 1999.
The report is interesting mostly because of its forward-looking statements about non-PC devices, which the company seems to be counting on for future growth. Microsoft has virtual monopolies in the PC operating system and desktop productivity suite markets already. But Windows--which is more of a marketing force than a cohesive product family--still dominates the company's plans.
"Microsoft’s fundamental vision for Windows is one of total scalability – from embedded operating systems in smart devices such as thermostats and light switches, through Windows CE on handheld PCs, and Web-enabled telephones, to the largest mission-critical server farms," says Gates. "Your handheld computer, Web-enabled telephone, and PC will synchronize with each other wirelessly and automatically, whether you are in your office or on the road. At Microsoft, some of our employees already use Windows 2000 with a wireless network. When they walk into a meeting room, their laptop is automatically recognized and a 'virtual workgroup' of everyone in the room is created. Wireless networks will transform the workplace."
To enable what Microsoft calls the "PC Plus" era, high bandwidth Internet connections and home networking need to become more pervasive. Gates says that Microsoft is investing in cable modem (high-speed Internet) and wireless companies to facilitate this process. And the company is investing a whopping $3.8 billion in research and development over the next year to make it happen.
"The PC-Plus era will be about connectivity, scalability, and simplicity. It will be an era when people are at the center, where technology is a natural extension of the way consumers and businesses think about themselves and their interactions with others," Gates concludes.
You can view Microsoft's annual report online at the Microsoft Web site