Gates Looks Toward Challenges, Opportunities for Windows

Q&A: In a wide-ranging interview, Microsoft's Bill Gates speaks out on the forthcoming advances due for Windows as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead for software developers and users. (Part 1 of 3)

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:

  • 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.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick 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.