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Microsoft spells out future at CEO summit

Microsoft gathered 100 chief executive officers together at its Redmond, Washington USA compound for two days, to present its predictions on the future of Web-based computing and tell them about new technologies in the pipeline.

The company's sixth annual CEO Summit saw business leaders from industries as diverse as finance, manufacturing and retail, gather to hear the software vendor discuss new technologies and productivity tools that it says will revitalise the business workplace.

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates delivered an opening speech highlighting the role technology can play in boosting efficiency and productivity, even as companies grapple with the continued economic slowdown.

He cited examples such as speech recognition, which allows users to interact with computers in a more familiar way. Similarly, Microsoft's recent "Trustworthy Computing" initiative, he said, aims to create a computing infrastructure that users can depend on for steady, secure access to the Internet.

Gates also showed off a futuristic PC workstation equipped with a panoramic display and extolled the virtues of its Web-based computing platform, .net. He told the CEOs that they should continue investing in these kinds of technologies to achieve long-term cost savings.

Microsoft called its annual summit the next-best thing to the World Economic Forum, a high profile gathering of the rich and powerful.

The CEOs were provided with test versions of Tablet PCs, which they were able to use during the conference. The slim, portable computers, which run a special edition of Windows XP Professional, have a display on which users can sketch notes using a stylus pen and Microsoft's handwriting software.

The devices were prototypes from hardware maker Acer, Microsoft said. The Acer Tablet PCs are equipped with smart card readers used for authentication as well as wireless networking technology for checking e-mail and taking part in interactive surveys, Microsoft said.

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