The Windows Principles

Like it or not, Microsoft and the Internet impact much of what we write about in the pages of Control Engineering. Whether it's software, networking, smart sensors—even training and support—issues involving one or both of these entities are sure to surface.Because of this, I was curious to hear what Microsoft founder and ceo, Bill Gates, would reveal during his keynote address...

By Jane S. Gerold, Editorial Director May 1, 1998

Like it or not, Microsoft and the Internet impact much of what we write about in the pages of Control Engineering . Whether it’s software, networking, smart sensors—even training and support—issues involving one or both of these entities are sure to surface.

Because of this, I was curious to hear what Microsoft founder and ceo, Bill Gates, would reveal during his keynote address April 21 at the Spring Comdex show in Chicago. After all, here’s the man who controls not only what runs on the PCs in our homes and offices, but in our factories as well.

By the numbers, Microsoft, with annual revenue of $13 billion, has sold 150 million copies of Windows worldwide, for a 90% share of global operating system sales.

In his keynote address, after outlining various hardware improvements, Mr. Gates told the audience, “The key thing that Microsoft does is provide Windows as a platform for all these advances to build on.”

What makes Windows the most successful software of all time? According to Mr. Gates, it’s because Microsoft has stuck to its “Windows principles:”

  • Maximize customer value through innovation;

  • Work with the software industry to provide great software choices;

  • Work with the hardware industry to make sure everything they do fits in with Windows;

  • Work with the services companies, who provide training and integration, to ensure that they can apply Windows as a building block.

“Volume is key to this equation,” continued Mr. Gates. “We knew the Windows principles wouldn’t kick in unless we could get PC computing up to tens of millions of units.”

All in the family

Microsoft’s Windows family has three levels. At the top is the most powerful OS, Windows NT. The new Windows NT 5 is a “strict superset” of Windows which, according to Mr. Gates, eliminates the tough trade-offs people had to make in using earlier versions of Windows NT.

At the next level, Micro-soft predicts Windows 98 to rapidly take over from Windows 95. It’s no small irony that Mr. Gates’ new software crashed during the keynote while demonstrating the plug-in capabilities of the Universal Serial Bus (USB). Faced with the “blue screen of death,” he quipped, “that must be why we’re not shipping yet.” Windows 98 puts “Internet browsing at the center of the Windows experience” and is key to Microsoft’s Internet strategy.

The new tier for Microsoft, and one with significant potential for the automation market, is Windows CE. In fact, Mr. Gates specifically cited embedded systems and industrial systems as targets. Windows CE is a small, diskless OS, but still a “strict subset” of Windows application interfaces.

One of Mr. Gates’ slides showed the three levels of Windows operating systems, from embedded Windows CE to the top-tier Windows NT. Maybe not so surprisingly, this graphic mirrored the product development strategies that major automation suppliers have recently shared with the Control Engineering editors.

Automation software developers, and hardware suppliers that embed software, are looking to Microsoft to predict the future. The high volumes that drove the “Windows principles” work to the advantage of the automation supplier and user.

Microprocessors will continue on their dual curves of rapidly increasing performance and declining costs. Massive Internet deployment will speed data transmissions and vastly improve communications. And Microsoft will continue to define how we use our computers—in business, at home, and in control.

Author Information
Jane S. Gerold, Editorial Director jgerold@cahners.com