Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talks up the company's R&D, outreach to scientists and new DreamSpark student program.
PALO ALTO, Calif.-Students,
faculty and other invited guests lined up in the rain at Stanford
University here Feb. 19 to hear
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talk about software, innovation, entrepreneurship
and giving back.
Gates, who already has a Computer Science building named after him on the
campus, took the stage to thunderous applause.
He started his talk by reminding attendees, many of whom were born long
after he started the company, that he had lured now-CEO
Steve Ballmer away from the university to Microsoft, quipping, "Even
though he has an undergraduate degree, I still think of him as a drop-out like
Gates showed a video
that spoofed his celebrity connections and his last
full day of work at Microsoft before he heads over to co-chair the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
full-time later in
But Gates made clear that he would remain involved in the effort to drive
innovation at Microsoft. "I will still be involved in some of the big
things, like the natural user interface and around how knowledge is
structured," he said.
The world has changed significantly since he started Microsoft, Gates said,
noting that people now take for granted that they will get their news and music
and make travel reservations online. "My daughter does not know what a
record is. I keep meaning to find one and show her," he said, before
praising how the Internet had made the world a smaller place.
Gates said he uses the Internet on a regular basis to find the answers
to the tough questions his children ask and that he cannot immediately
He also spent some time during his 45-minute speech on the company's
commitment to research and development, noting that Microsoft spent more than
$6 billion a year on R&D and establishing research centers across the
world. "This research activity is risk-oriented," he said.
Software is becoming more important in the broad world of the sciences, and
Microsoft is doing its best to reach out to scientists at the top universities
and elsewhere, he said.
Gates reminded attendees of the disparities that existed between the United
States, the richest country in the world,
and countries in the developing world. He called on his listeners to use
their knowledge and abilities to change the world and help others.
"This is a wonderful time to be a student and I will be very excited to
see the great work that you will do," he said.
As expected, Gates also talked up Microsoft's new DreamSpark
student program, which makes a
broad range of development and design software available for download at no
charge. The program is now available to more than 35 million college students
in Belgium, China,
the United Kingdom and
the United States.
Some observers view the program's goal as being to not only draw more
developers to the Microsoft platform, but to catch them while they are young
and before they might become entrenched in Java or open-source tools.
Gates is not the only Microsoft executive to address Stanford students. In
March 2007, Ballmer visited the Stanford Graduate School of Business
to talk about the world of corporate leadership and management. In his talk, Ballmer also called for more students to
embrace a career in technology.