Comdex '99—Bill Gates opened the annual fall rite of Comdex in Las Vegas on Sunday night with a heavily attended keynote at the Venetian casino attached to the Sands Convention Center. He began by asking if anyone in the audience knew any good lawyer jokes. In a presentation that was peppered with allusions to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit, Gates lost $2 on appeal to investor Warren Buffet for a suit on TV’s Judge Judy. This all played to an appreciative and mostly sympathetic audience. Gates mostly concentrated on his company’s technology and the role the Internet will play in next-generation businesses. The Internet has been a recurring theme at Fall Comdex ’99, where there’s even a pavilion featuring more than 30 dot coms. This is a high growth area in the computer marketplace that no large company wants to ignore. Gates expressed Microsoft’s strong support for the developing Extensible Markup Language (XML) standards for data interchange, particularly as they're applied to information on the Internet. Gates called XML “very central… it speaks to interoperability at the semantic level.” Using XML, site developers can add information that will help link buyers and sellers, and allow for personalization of the Web. With respect to the latter, Gates said that XML will enable users to pick and mix and match information from different Web sites. “People will never have to re-enter the same information again and again and they won't have to move their bookmarks and contacts," he said. "There will be personalization everywhere.” Gates expressed his support for better security and privacy for the Web in conjunction with these new technologies. In one demonstration of how you might apply XML, Gates ordered a new car, assigned options he desired, and purchased the vehicle. Then he demonstrated the features you can add to the car for a trip driving from Las Vegas to Seattle. The system retrieves a route, determines how much gasoline you need, and shows you where to refuel. Gates also scheduled a mid-trip service. This technology can even assist with mapping a location using GPS for satellite navigation and downloading a custom set of music files to the car’s music system. Microsoft hopes to apply Windows CE to various systems in cars such as control centers. Gates presentation also included a demonstration of scalability and fault tolerance of Windows servers. Using five Windows 2000 (Win2K) servers, Microsoft created a Web site that handled 5 million Web pages. This transaction level is at the upper limit of the most active Web sites in use today. Gates removed one of the computers from the system, and the site kept on running without loss of transactions. He then demonstrated how you can add another server to the system to lower processing loads. The entire demonstration went off without a hitch. One of the demonstrations Gates showed was a small computer that is code-named Mariner. This computer, which runs Windows CE, lets users browse the Web, send and receive email, and retrieve and modify their calendar. Mariner is meant to be a Microsoft Network (MSN) companion, and several vendors (including Acer, Philips Electronics, and Thomson Computer Electronics) plan to provide the computer by the second quarter of 2000. Using this computer and its keyboard, users can go directly to features on MSN’s site. Industry insiders expect that Mariner will be available for free to people who sign a subscription agreement with MSN, a model common with cellular phones. You can read the entire transcript of Bill Gates’ keynote speech online.