Forget the gloom, doom and despondency, everything’s going to be OK – well, it is if you’re Bill Gates according to the Microsoft’s chairman’s assessment of his company’s prospects.
Speaking at Microsoft’s annual financial analyst meeting, Gates said Microsoft's position in the enterprise was strengthening, due to its server capabilities and tools and operating system focus.
He said Microsoft had seen some "remarkable successes in 2002" despite tough economic times. "Web services are gaining broad appeal,” he said. “The WS-I Web services interoperability organisation now has more than 100 members and Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net is now deploying all kinds of Web services applications."
But he dismissed the chances of niche companies or those without a broad portfolio doing well in the future. "SAP has a franchise, Siebel has a franchise, Adobe does, Oracle does for ERP, and we have a franchise,” he said. “But look at the number of times when somebody had a leading product and it gets knocked off… Think of the times when it wasn't Microsoft doing the knocking off – it's not likely. I view that with massive scepticism."
It’s a case of spend, spend, spend for the company in the coming twelve months. Gates expects to spend $5.2 billion on research and development this year, up from $4.3 billion last year, while in terms of marketing, the company intends to spend $200 million in a worldwide advertising campaign, including TV ads.
Microsoft also plans to boost its work force of 50,000 by 10 per cent. In the coming year, Microsoft will invest 22 per cent more in server salespeople, 15 per cent in the amount spent on account managers, and 47 per cent more in developer salespeople. ''It's an aggressive approach, but one I certainly believe in,'' Gates said.
The .Net initiative also looms high on the agenda. Eric Rudder, senior vice president of the developer platform and evangelism at Microsoft, said the forthcomingYukon version of Microsoft .Net will feature improved IDE and community support and will feature a new visual design tool for XML and integration with SQL Server and embrace all the languages in the Common Language Runtime. "It will also do cool things with Office and Web services," Rudder said. "We're winning customers through the .Net advantage," Rudder said. "We create the strongest foundation for business agility. Our solution is comprehensive open services, servers and tools."
Gates added that he still hopes for a favourable ruling in the antitrust case pending in federal court against the software giant, but warned that if he doesn’t get it, the Supreme Court will be his next stop. "The things we don't like are permanent," he said. "It's either a favourable ruling or it's like, oh, my source code is gone.”