Bill Gates in mid-November gave an update on Microsoft's development work in security, spam, and search software, and then introduced his latest preoccupation: seamless computing.
Microsoft's chief software architect used the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, as he has for the past 20 years, to talk about what comes next. He defined seamless computing as the ability to share information among many kinds of devices, while spanning businesses and business processes. He described the software needed to allow such connectivity as "the final level of infrastructure." Microsoft demonstrated its Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, which is scheduled for beta testing in January. An application-layer firewall, ISA Server 2004 is designed to fight the latest types of worms and network attacks and create more secure VPN connections.
The company previewed search technology its research division is developing to help users find previously accessed information that's stored in a file, message, or Web page. Elements could be incorporated into the Longhorn operating system.
Microsoft plans to deliver a spam filter as an add-on to Exchange Server 2003 in the next several months. The technology, called SmartScreen, was developed by analyzing E-mail from 200,000 Hotmail accounts and using the characteristics from those messages to determine the likelihood that a message is spam. Says Steve Canter, CIO of Berlin Packaging, a $200 million-a-year company that uses Exchange 2000, "If it proves to be an effective tool, it could certainly be a factor causing us to upgrade [to Exchange 2003] sooner."