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THE CUTTING EDGE / TRENDS | HEARD ON THE BEAT

Putting on the Microsoft Sell

May 05, 1997|LESLIE HELM

Proving once again his drawing power as the nation's richest man and best-known techno-visionary, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is hosting a summit in Seattle beginning Wednesday that will include Vice President Al Gore and 100 leading chief executives from around the world.

The occasion will also give Gates yet another chance to prove his mettle as a high-powered salesman.

Although Microsoft has been mum about the names of its illustrious guests in an effort to keep it "low key," a spokesman said 40% of the executives come from overseas, and they represent many of the world's largest corporations.

Microsoft says the group will talk about the impact of the technology revolution on business and society. The company says it also wants feedback from leading corporations on what Microsoft should add to its technology offerings.

But if the past is any guide, Gates will also take every opportunity to plug Microsoft's latest products.

In trips through India and Africa earlier this year, Gates met with government leaders and spoke at length about the transformative powers of computers and, more particularly, Microsoft products.

As he rubs shoulders with the world's business elite, Gates may find it hard resisting the opportunity to promote Windows NT, a Microsoft operating system aimed at business users that the company expects to be a major generator of profit growth into the next century.

Microsoft sold 2.2 million units of Windows NT software last year, and Dataquest, a San Jose-based marketing research company, expects sales of the operating system to reach 41 million by the end of the decade.

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