Addressing Dell Computer's DirectConnect conference Wednesday in Austin, Texas, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates told the crowd that Windows 2000 would ship by the end of the year, as scheduled.

"We are very close to the final shipment," he said. "We're pretty sure the builds will go final by the end of the year."

Gates told the crowd that Microsoft was spending $3.8 billion on research and development during its current fiscal year and that this money will go toward making the computing experience seamless. Gates wants Microsoft to create software for all kinds of devices, not just PCs. Gates noted that his idea for "a computer on every desk in every home is already passé

"We want to 'Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, on any device,' " Gates said. "We still have a lot of work to do."

As for Windows 2000, the Gates demo focused on ease of use and ease of management. He also talked up the recent decision to double the scalability of the Server products and the "self healing" capabilities of Windows 2000.

"\[Windows 2000\] should eliminate the Unix single point of failure issue," Gates said. "People are expecting everything out of this software that they got from mainframes, plus they want the clustering capability.