Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., sat through a computer demonstration running on Linux--a competitor to Microsoft's Windows--and the Netscape browser, a rival product that all but disappeared because of giveaways of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
Gates attended a technical briefing in Midtown Manhattan, where Microsoft and software rival IBM Corp. touted so-called Web services, software aimed at streamlining Internet transactions.
Gates and IBM executive vice president Steve Mills said their companies' three-year collaboration had developed tools that will let computers conduct secure transactions whether they run Microsoft's Windows platform or others, such as IBM's WebSphere or the open-source Linux system that is given away.
"We're being as inclusive as we can," Gates said of Microsoft's role in the cross-platform project. "This is a fabric for someone to do e-commerce that's independent of the operating systems that are out there."
Mills said the companies had decided to cooperate even though the new standards also benefit rival companies and software.
"Standards are always a give-to-get bargain," he said.
The two executives said they would turn their developments over to Internet standards bodies.
Gates said the Redmond, Wash.-based company's work toward Web services standards would be "royalty-free." That remark led to questions from the audience, which wanted to make sure Gates hadn't misstated the deviation from the company's royalty-based software sales model.
"I can't believe I said that," Gates joked.