Information At Your Fingertips, Courtesy Of Google

Here's a quote from Bill Gates, "This next era that we're moving into is quite different than the original PC era." Where did that come from? Bill's first of many 2008 Microsoft retirement speeches including the one at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show? Nope, that quote was from Bill's 1994 Comdex keynote speech.

With Bill doing the long goodbye, it is worth considering the number of times he has been right about the trend (a lot) and wrong about the company that would capitalize on the trend. Here's a hint. In nearly all cases he hit the trend right, but it was not Microsoft that capitalized on the trend.

Information at your fingertips? That was from a 1990 Gates keynote. He was right about the idea of someone asking a computer to help them with their questions. Unfortunately for Bill, the company that people are querying with their fingertips is Google.

That flat panel display in your car vehicle Bill talked about in the 1990s? That would be Garmin or Tom-Tom or maybe your cell phone offering GPS location and directions.

And what about that point and touch user interface rather than keyboard and mouse method of interacting with the computing world? Yes, that would be Steve Jobs and Apple via the iPhone rather than Redmond.

At the CES keynote just passed, Bill went for the safe bets rather than the long reach. Natural user interfaces, services delivered over the web and vast amounts of storage sitting out there in the Internet cloud are all bets that are safe and were part of his presentation. (Note, I was not there, but did read several accounts of the presentation). I'm not sure you can call it a bet if the race has already been run. The question isn't the veracity of the predictions, the question for the Microsoft that Bill leaves after his retirement this year will be whether it will be Microsoft or a long term or newly formed competitor which will be able to cash in on those bets.