--Microsoft announced beta versions of its Explorer Web browser for Windows NT, Windows 3.1 and Macintosh. Mr. Gates vowed to make Microsoft a major player in the browser market, where Netscape Communications Corp. now controls more than 70% of the market.
Reviewing Microsoft's progress in building browser market share will be "a metric that I will look at on a regular basis," Mr. Gates said. Toward that end, Microsoft will give away its browser for all computer platforms.
"Here's the deal: Our browser's free. That's the deal," said Mr. Gates.
That resolve calls into question Netscape's browser revenue strategy. While Netscape offers its browser free for non-commercial use, it requires business customers to pay for the software and sells a retail version of the browser for $39.95. Microsoft conceivably could drive Netscape to abandon efforts to make money from selling browsers.
Mr. Gates acknowledged Netscape is perceived as a leader in the Internet. "They've got the attention of the world," he said.
--Microsoft is "retargeting" its code-named Blackbird multimedia development software as Internet Studio, an Internet tool for producing multimedia content. Microsoft will issue a beta version early next year.
--The company will offer a free "add-on" for Windows 95 next year allowing PC users to make their interface mimic the look of a Web page. Microsoft said this will allow two PC users to collaborate on a document over the Internet, which the company pitches as a simple alternative to IBM's Lotus Notes.
--Microsoft is working on a version of its popular Microsoft Office application software that will allow close integration with the Internet and the "Intranet," or companies' private, in-house versions of the 'Net.
--Mr. Gates stood by Microsoft's early goal to gain one million customers in the first year for Microsoft Network, the online service launched in August. Microsoft is expanding the ties between MSN and the Internet, billing MSN now as an "Internet online service."
Mr. Gates praised the "community" aspect of America Online. "We're really going to be taking the best of what they've done, the best of our technology and the best of the Internet and put them together," he said.
Parts of MSN will be available free from the Web, using any browser, Mr. Gates said.
Microsoft's Internet Strategy Workshop in Seattle was attended by several hundred journalists, analysts and industry executives.
Separately, Microsoft plans to raise its stake in its Indian subsidiary to 100%. Acknowledging India's importance as a market with immense potential, the software giant has applied to the Indian government's Foreign Investment Promotion Board for permission to convert New Delhi-based Microsoft Corp. India into a wholly owned subsidiary. Microsoft currently holds 51%.
NRI India, an overseas corporate entity which will relinquish its share, holds 49%. "Microsoft views India as a market of strategic importance in its global plans, with a very discerning customer base that values both technology and quality," states Microsoft's proposal to the government.