Gates on the Past, the Future, and Google
Do not misunderstand: Gates is still chairman of the Microsoft board, and he still sees progress reports, goes to the occasional company strategy meeting, speaks at keynotes and intervenes in big customer deals as needed.
But he also has more time for events like TechNet, held Nov. 15 at Stanford Universitys venerable Memorial Auditorium.
Gates was interviewed by PBSs talk-show host Charlie Rose in a wide-ranging, hourlong conversation before an audience of about 1,000 Stanford students, media members and various guests -- including Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger of California.
TechNet describes itself as the "bipartisan political network of CEOs that promotes the growth of the innovation economy."
The 200-member organization held its third annual TechNet Innovation Summit at Stanford to discuss the state of innovation and the public policies needed to sustain the United States competitiveness in the global economy.
Here are some observations from Gates in response to questions from Rose:
"Were going to compete in search. We think our Live.com will be a better search in a lot of ways. Competition between our two companies will be good for the whole industry."
"No, really," Gates said. "They were mainly concerned about security and open-document formats -- those were the big issues. We have worked out our differences. If they wanted us to leave out some of our components for some reason, we could have delivered a European version of Vista for them. But it turned out that wasnt necessary."
"In gaming, [the] TV, high-definition video [and] PC are all coming together now in the Xbox. Voice recognition will get better ... software and services with improved interfaces wrapped around them will be coming soon. Our new Zune [media player] has built-in Wi-Fi, so you can send your friends music and photos and messages ... well continue to see this kind of innovation building on top of what we have today. Were moving toward more connected entertainment everywhere.
"Were on to another wave of innovation; we just need to make sure the United States continues to stay right up there in relation to the rest of the world."
"Yes, its later than we planned. But we want it to be right. It reminds me of when we released Windows 95 late that year, taking much longer than we planned. Its code-name had been Chicago. So when it finally came out, one of our competitors took out a full-page ad in the newspaper that read: "All Flights Are Late to Chicago."
"We want to move quickly as possible on diseases like malaria and AIDS, to find vaccines; were convinced well have a vaccine for malaria relatively soon. Its tough when you realize that 1 million kids die every year from malaria, and 500,000 each year from rodovirus (a gastrointestinal virus that mostly attacks children). I get a little upset with the media, which will cover a plane crash in India that killed 100 people, but it wont cover the fact that 1,000 times that many died in Africa today from malnutrition or disease."
"As new brains come into the new economy, we will all benefit, thanks to technology. But the [population] numbers are overwhelming -- were going to have to get used to the world catching up to us [in innovation]."
"We always thought we could do a small slice of software business ... up until then, companies always did both hardware and software. Turns out we did more than a small slice."
Local producers on-site at the production said they didnt know when the interview would air on PBS. Roses programs can air "in two days, if its a clean production, or it can air a month later if it needs a lot of work," a production assistant told eWEEK.
This production seemed very clean indeed -- except at the beginning, when Roses microphone refused to work for several minutes during his introducion of Gates.
"You mean the mike isnt working?" joked Rose in response to the giggling audience. "I was wondering why the intro was so entertaining to everybody."
TechNet introduces Green Technologies Initiative
At the event, TechNet announced its new Green Technologies Initiative, which will push Congress for a heightened U.S. commitment to adopt "green technologies" to fortify national security and address global energy and environmental challenges, such as global warming.
Other participants in the TechNet Innovation Summit included: Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems; Reed Hastings, founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix; Jerry Yang, co-founder and chief Yahoo, Yahoo!; John Doerr, partner in IT venture capital compnay Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and Brian Halla, chairman and CEO of National Semiconductor.
The Green Technologies Initiative will be led by a group of TechNet CEOs and senior executives.
Some companies, such as Sun Microsystems, already have managers at the executive level who are charged with making sure "green" policies -- regarding recycling, power conservation, utilizing renewable fuels and other issues -- are enacted on a daily basis at all of the companys locations around the world.
"The TechNet Green Tech Initiative will provide a roadmap for government and industry to put these technologies to use in solving our serious environmental and energy challenges," said Doerr, a co-founder of TechNet. "We have just a few years to get this right, and it is the power of innovation that will lead the way in combating this crisis."
Doerr, former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Cisco CEO John Chambers created TechNet in 1997 to shape public policy impacting U.S. innovation and technology leadership.
Energy facts, as reported by TechNet at the summit: