LAS VEGAS -- The browser isn't everything when it comes to Microsoft's platform strategy for next-generation Web applications, but it remains key, Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates made clear Monday at MIX 06.
Microsoft made a mistake in waiting to build new innovations in its own browser technology, Internet Explorer, he admitted.
"In a sense we're doing a 'mea culpa' in saying we've waited too long for a new browser release," Gates said during his talk to kick off Microsoft's first show for designers and developers of high-impact Web sites. "We are very immersed in the browser as a platform."
Microsoft's lackluster attention to the browser allowed competitors like Firefox maker Mozilla and Opera Software to challenge IE's dominance in the browser space.
Now Microsoft is answering that challenge, Gates said. The company is building innovations into IE to improve the user experience, enhance security, and add next-generation technologies such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication), he said. Microsoft already is looking ahead to the next two releases of IE, and expects the next version, IE 7, to be broadly adopted once it is released later this year.
IE 7 will be included in the Windows Vista operating system, which will ship later this year. Microsoft also will offer a version for Windows XP at the same time.
Wooing Web Designers
As expected, Gates announced a new test version of IE 7 at MIX 06, which drew a solid attendance for a first-time show.
Attendees, the bulk of them Web designers and developers, said Microsoft is hard at work wooing creative Web design firms in order to establish credibility among this sector, which traditionally has favored a combination of Adobe/Macromedia software and Apple Computer hardware to build Web sites and applications.
One Web designer from Washington, who asked not to be identified, said Microsoft is courting his company and even paid the way for him and his colleagues to attend the show. Microsoft also is dangling big-name customers in front of the Web design shop to lure them to use its tools and platforms, including the forthcoming Microsoft Expression set of design tools, which competes with Adobe software.
MIX 06 attendee Lynn Langit, founder and lead architect for her own company, WebFluent, said Microsoft in part is using its renewed focus on IE to "establish its dominance on the Web." She said she was particularly impressed with the IE 7 compatibility lab at MIX 06, where developers can test their Web sites to see how they will perform in IE 7.
The browser wasn't the only focus of Gates's talk. He spoke of going "beyond the browser" with tools for providing Web-connected applications on myriad devices, like the new Windows-based ultramobile PCs. Microsoft and partners unveiled the devices, code-named Origami, at CeBIT earlier this month.
"We can't be device centric--we have to be user centric," he said. To do this, Microsoft is poised to offer an easy-to-use platform with tools--and within Vista--for developers to build next-generation Web applications.