Gates Pushes Power to the People Message

Microsoft's chairman talks up the business benefits of blogging, RSS, online meetings and other user-empowerment technologies to 100 top CEOs.

How do you explain Real Simple Syndication (RSS) to 100 CEOs, some of whom are barely comfortable checking their own e-mail?

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates found a way, as part of his keynote that kicked off the companys eighth annual CEO summit taking place in Redmond over the next two days. The summit was closed to the press, but the Gates keynote was Web cast for members of the media.

The productivity benefits accrued by companies that arent afraid to back "bottoms-up empowerment" was a key theme for Gates during his hour-long address, attended by CEOs from Barnes & Noble, Berkshire-Hathaway, Dell, Delta, Fanny Mae, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot and other Fortune 1000 firms from around the world.

Gates detailed a handful of scenarios that exemplify the "seamless-computing" world view that he has been espousing for the past couple of years.

Gates mentioned briefly how seamless computing will impact the entertainment and digital lifestyle realms. But, given the business interests of the CEO Summit audience, he focused primarily on "business productivity" and "rewiring the economy" scenarios that will harness the power of seamless computing.

Gates talked about the tension between centralization versus individual user empowerment. "Over the last few years, it (the emphasis) has been swinging toward centralization," he said. "But now the focus is on bottoms-up empowerment."

He cited as an example of the good that can come from empowering individual users the crash-analysis reporting software (code-named "Watson") that Microsoft has been using to gather data on bugs in Microsoft Office. Watson allows users to submit reports of crashes directly to Microsoft over the Web in real time.

"This has been a fantastic thing," Gates told the CEOs. Because of Watson, "our software is more agile, more transparent and more up-to-date."

He noted that Microsoft is expanding on the Watson technologies so that they can be used by individual IT departments to gather crash/bug reports on software deployed within their own companies.

Gates also extolled the productivity benefits that can be derived from user-empowering technologies such as blogging, RSS, collaboration software and online communities that are integrated into Web sites.

Gates called blogging and the RSS Web content syndication service a "very interesting phenomenon." He suggested that by using RSS as notification system, customers can "get the information you want when you want it."


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