In his final keynote as Microsoft's chairman, Gates, who retires next month, looked back on application development trends and listed technology milestones, past and future, for Windows developers.
Gates then discussed some tactical advances, such as this August's availability of Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 and this week's delivery of Silverlight Beta 2, the plug-in for developers to help build .NET-based interactive applications.
He released the first community technology preview (CTP) of a project, code-named Velocity, which is a distributed application cache platform where large clusters of machines can integrate into a single cache. With Velocity, data can reside anywhere and be accessed from any location.
He also discussed initiatives, such as Microsoft's modeling platform, code-named Oslo, for use in future versions of Visual Studio, System Center and SQL Server. The Oslo technology, first revealed last October, is an application platform that extends the bridge between on premise and cloud applications in a software services world.
This week, Gates also revealed some new partners for the Microsoft Sync Framework, which allows for synchronizing data sources across multiple platforms, and said a CTP for Windows Mobile support will be available in the third quarter of 2008.
What about IT?
What IT managers don't yet know is what implications some of these new developer technologies will have on IT management. Gates' vision is to have a software service that mirrors all of what people do today on their on-premise servers, but much work needs to be done to achieve parity between in-house and services-based applications.
IT shops know nothing about how to deal with software configuration, distribution and rollout in the cloud, said Neil Macehiter, a principal with Macehiter Ward-Dutton, a U.K.-based consulting firm.
"Only recently have [IT managers] gotten their heads around the issue of the firewall and now they are going out across these boundaries," Macehiter said. "We've heard nothing from Microsoft about what this new vision means [to IT]. What does Silverlight mean for applications management?"
On one hand, Microsoft will have to take care that developers don't get too far ahead of what the IT professionals are capable of managing. On the other hand, most of these initiatives will take a long time to roll out and it will be some time before organizations become comfortable enough to adopt them, Macehiter said.
For this transformation to occur, IT executives will want to see the same or better levels of security, service level agreements and a secured repository, and to understand manageability in these emerging tools. Microsoft has often had challenges in these areas because it develops for the consumer first.
"With cloud computing, there are plenty of issues surrounding security," said David O'Berry, director of information technology systems and services at the South Carolina Dept. of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
"People don't just want search, they want secure and assured search, secure and assured access, secure and assured browsing," O'Berry said. "We want assurance that when we get on the road we are reasonably safe for the amount of traffic we have when we are doing things digitally. That sense of well being does not exist today."