Microsoft Corp chairman and chief executive Bill Gates has clearly learned something from his nemesis, Sun Microsystems Inc chief, Scott McNealy. Namely, that keynote speeches at trade shows are invariably dull plugs for your company, and if you must do them, add some color, self-deprecating humor and throw in the odd celebrity to give the audience some light relief. And so at his speech that opened the Comdex show here in Las Vegas on Sunday, Gates, a man not noted for his spontaneous humor and comic timing, chose to let others speak for him on the subject of personal computers. He said nothing of note, but such is his company’s power and influence he was able to call on the resources of the US Marines, in the form of Major Jim Cummiskey and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to keep the audience’s attention. Abdul-Jabbar, a PC owner of one week’s standing, showed off his website – with Gates helping him with his mouse control – and even joined the press melee afterwards, as no doubt his one-off contract with Redmond stipulated. Gates poked fun at the Department of Justice, consumer rights king Ralph Nader, himself, and his right-hand man, Steve Ballmer with spoof commercials – another favorite McNealy device – and one-liners. Gates and a Microsoft engineer demo’d the beta 1 version of Windows NT 5.0, highlighting the IntelliMirror PC management technology, which is a way of a PC application’s state and data on the network, giving users access to their desktop from any machine on the network, which worked fine until it was shut down, when it crashed in spectacular style. IntelliMirror will beta in early 1998, Gates said. Indeed, if you substituted NetPC – Hewlett-Packard Co’s was the one shown – for network computer, it could have been one of McNealy’s ra-ra speeches about NCs and Java, which Gates incidentally called a great programming language.
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