Gates Looks Toward Challenges, Opportunities for Windows

By eweek  |  Posted 2005-05-03

Gates Looks Toward Challenges, Opportunities for Windows

As Microsoft Corp. enters its third decade of Windows computing, the companys effort is focused on the move to 64-bit computing and the release of Windows Longhorn. At last weeks WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) in Seattle, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli to talk about 64-bit computing and whats ahead for the Windows platform in the upcoming decade.

In this, the first of a three-part series, Gates details his expectations for 64-bit computing: its challenges and opportunities.

You have long talked about the "digital decade" as defining the last decade of computing and characterized by 32-bit computing. As we now move into the third decade of Windows, obviously the digital side is not going away, but what else do you think will define this decade?

I think these [revolutions] will be:

  • 64-bit [computing]—and the headroom that gives us—everywhere.

  • The ability to not just connect the browser to any site, but for software to connect to any other software through the standards that have come out of XML at the base level and now Web services at the protocol level. That leads to a style of programming and flexibility that is pretty important.

  • What we call natural interface: the voice and telephony, connecting up to the PC; video cameras connecting up to the PC; and speech, video and ink recognition. People are vastly underestimating those [technologies] as really contributing to the ease of doing things on a strongly digital basis.

  • Its a bit software-centric, but we are modeling things more and more—from business processes to the systems we are trying to manage, to the applications and the performance you are trying to get, to its higher-level constructs for people to work with.

    All of these have been Holy Grails of software. But we are making real progress there because of the benefits of writing fewer lines of code and not managing system-by-system but managing against a set of systems with policies that set up explicit commands.

    Those are some of the revolutions that a decade from now I think well look back and see. The hardware stuff also just keeps getting better: wireless, big screens, small form factors, some of the convergence elements like PC with phone—were also investing heavily in that.

    What do you foresee the greatest challenges being for the industry over this, the third decade of Windows computing?

    We need to use the magic of software to avoid some of the complexities and frustrations people have. Theyre worried about getting their identities stolen. They feel like they have to manually go in and look to see whether things are up to date. They have to get signatures and add on software and things of that nature.

    So, we have to get rid of that friction and pain in order for them to be willing to experience the benefit of all this. We have to get rid of that friction, that pain, for them to experience the benefit of these neat new things.

    If you look at it as a category of investment for Microsoft—what we call Trustworthy Computing and which includes all of this—it will be the biggest category for as long as I can see out in the future, lets say for the rest of this decade.

    Click here to read more about Microsofts security architecture demonstrated at WinHEC.

    Now, by doing that well, then we can take what we can do with business intelligence and workflow and let those things show through. But we have to get those other things. If youre just reading spam mail, you arent taking advantage of the new features.

    We need to make things better and we are, in a sense, an integrator. Were mostly integrating our own code, but thats what we do on behalf of the user, and there is no equivalent function in terms of consistent user interface, consistent tasking and responsiveness. The commercial model really is superior for some of those things.

    Next Page: Opportunities and the pace of advancement.

    Opportunities and the Pace

    of Advancement"> How about the greatest opportunities?

    Were still nowhere near some of the dreams of the late 90s. I mean, has e-commerce happened? Only in a very modest way.

    Even with digital entertainment, theres more in front of us for video and music and photos.

    Do people schedule themselves electronically or not? Its a very small minority today. Scheduling is just one scenario that as we get that right between Windows and Office, it will be very advantageous for people.

    The world of high definition is coming along and what that means, whether its business visualization, what we call 21st century documents in Windows, or just games running on Windows, high definition is a very cool thing.

    Broadband we can take for granted in businesses. But do we have the services where we monitor things on behalf of those users and make it easier for them to decide what they want to have in their businesses? Do they want to run their server in their business, or do they want services that provide the equivalent, and do we make it really easy to switch back and forth between those two things?

    No, thats just a huge opportunity and we can come forward to a corporation and tell them that we will let them save on development costs, hardware costs, communications costs and the complexity of the software stack they are managing.

    We will let [corporations] save, and they can use those savings to put in the wireless network so their users are always connected, get the people in the field to have the Tablet device and do business intelligence in a better way, without having to grow the IT budget a ton.

    There are those big opportunities. As the price of so many things is going down, packaged software can stay a small part of that slice and have this dramatic impact.

    I remember a few years ago seeing your presentation where a user and their family could be connected to one another and everyone else, from the doctor with their medical records and X-rays to the insurance company for approval. It seems you were ahead of the game with that vision. Are you disappointed at how long its taking to get there, and why is that?

    One of the moat notable speeches I gave on that was in 1990 when I used the term "information at your fingertips," which talked about Web search and automatic notification. Only a small part of what I talked about there has come true.

    As you said, we had the medical scenario, but thats not exactly how it works yet. We had a classroom where every student had a Tablet device. Were not there yet.

    Many of these things take time, but I still believe in everything I said and showed in that 1990 presentation. Microsoft has been the leader with many of those things.

    Some people find it ironic that in search, even though we anticipated those things, in certain implementations, Google did a good job and got out ahead: At least in one aspect were playing catch-up to them, but thats not atypical.

    To read more about Microsofts Web search engine technology, click here.

    Weve been around and had a vision of these things that has been basically correct. Some things took longer than I expected, like advances with the way medical records are shared. Some things, like Wi-Fi and USB happened faster, and we now just take them for granted. Im hoping high definition will be one of those that happens faster than expected.

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