In a speech to the World Congress on Information Technology in Taipei, Taiwan, Bill Gates carefully avoided the legal troubles his company is facing following last week's historic ruling that could lead to a breakup of the software giant.

Instead, Gates used the speech to focus on outlining the future of Windows in the Internet era.

Gates' strict focus on technology and on Microsoft's plans stood out at a three-day conference at which a succession of business and government leaders have taken a broader view, discussing the impact of information technology on government and society at large as well as on the computer industry.

Looking forward, Gates said the next phase of the Internet will be about going beyond browsers, or what he billed as a presentation network.

"We also need to move away from just using the keyboard, we need to move to handwriting and speech, particularly for languages where the keyboard is very inefficient," Gates said. "These new natural interfaces will find their way into the Windows operating system over the next several years."

Gates then outlined Microsoft's plans for future products and technologies.

"The next phase, which we call the Next Generation of Windows Services will be very personalised," Gates said. "It will be about a variety of devices where the PC is mostly used for exercising creativity."

XML (Extensible Markup Language) will be one of the core technologies of this strategy. "Buying and selling on the Internet will be an exchange of rich XML," Gates said.

New technologies, especially wireless Internet, will also play a role in allowing users to share resources. But Gates said information appliances will not take the place of PCs. On long flights, for example, users will need the full PC client, he said.

Gates repeatedly emphasised the level of investment required to make this vision a reality, saying it will cost "more than three times what it cost to put a man on the moon."