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FCW Insider: Bill Gates says you ain't seen nothing yet

I mentioned yesterday that I got the chance to talk to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and then this morning, me and 1,101 of my closest friends got to hear Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, who was speaking at the Northern Virginia Technology Council's Titan breakfast.

And Gates got a standing ovation even before he spoke. He started out by noting that the Northern Virginia Technology Council breakfast was being held... in Washington, D.C.

Gates is one a DC tour. He was on Capitol Hill yesterday and then did this speaking engagement this morning. (He took questions after his speech, but they specifically noted, "No questions from the media, please.")

Bill Gates at NVTC

The crux of what Gates had to say: If you thought you saw a lot of change up to this point, you've probably not seen anything yet. And, not surprisingly, much of that change will come from software, he suggested.

The change over the next 10 years will be at least as significant -- and as fast moving -- as the last 10 years have been, Gates said. That is largely due to the fact that hardware and software makes more things possible. Better, faster and cheaper.

Computers have completely changed how we experience photography, for example, obliterating the concept of the need to develop a roll of film. Computers have also changed our relationships with music. Now we create our own playlists.

"There are great realms of activity that digital approach has not yet touched on," Gates said.Specifically, he made mention of television, telephones... and taking notes, which is still largely done with pen and paper. But in schools, tablet PCs could provide a more rich environment, allowing one to take notes, search for some relevant piece of information, tap into an online encyclopedia, for example... or share notes in a more collaborative framework. There is a similar potential with television, which still has largely not changed.

Gates made passing reference to government and he noted that there is still a lot of potential for governments to embrace a more digital world. "In a broad sense, we can say that information workers ... are not yet empowered to collaborate in the way that they should," he said. "I think the opportunity is stronger than it's ever been."

Gates himself acknowledged that he has a very optimistic view of the future, and that optimism comes in part from his belief in the benefits of technology.

He did made several references to software-as-a-service. Microsoft has been working to become more SAAS savvy under intense pressure from companies such as Google and Oracle. Gates suggested that there is more to come. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft evolves that over time.
The first question -- again, not from the media. We were gagged -- but the first question was about security and specifically why security only got a passing reference in Gates' comments. Gates acknowledged that Microsoft -- and most software companies -- have come a long way, but that issues such as encryption andauthentication are still evolving. Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, said that we have traditionally thought of security as a castle and moat -- just keep the bad guys out. "Now it's hard to get everything inside the castle," he said.

So some Microsoft folks have bets on what I would focus on. I hope I didn't disappoint.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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