Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Gates on Spam, Longhorn, Linux and Office

On Anti Spam solutions

Strategy 1:
If you want somebody to read an e-mail you would put up a certain amount of money. So you say, "OK, if he reads this e-mail, I offer 20 cents for the person to read the e-mail." What's the valuable resource? It's the reader's time. And if they read it and say, "Oh this is my long-lost brother." Then they can say, "No don't charge them the 20 cents

If you ring my phone at 4 in the morning, all right, that's 10 bucks. You better put 10 bucks at risk. And if you tell me my house is on fire, I won't debit you

Strategy 2 :
Using filters, you won't be able to catch all junk mail. But it is still ok. If you can delete 80% of spam mail and make the cost per mail, say 100 times what it is today, then you make things much, much tougher for spammers.

What are your number one and two priorities for the company ?

My role is the product strategy, so things like speech, handwriting, making work flow more efficient and making sure that as you do these things more effectively, digitally, that you actually have better security than the equivalent non-digital processes

We call this the digital decade, and it's where you get the devices of all sizes working together as opposed to requiring a lot of work to move information around between them effectively. Your information is all stored in a very encrypted way in the sky and whenever you authenticate yourself to a device, whether it's a tablet, desktop, pocket sized whatever it is, then your information automatically shows up on that device.

Taking the research breakthroughs that we've made and getting those into products is the thing I spend most of my time on.

On a Forbes Article which said MS was boring :

Well, let's take a look. Expedia. We sold that for a billion dollars. It cost us $70 million to create it. We sold it for a billion. Of dotcom start-ups, is that a terrible record relative to others? I don't know. CarPoint makes money.It doesn't make a huge amount of money, but it's a very good business for us.

Set top boxes, we're number one. Phones, we're number 2 in that. Video games, we're number 2 in that.

What's Longhorn( Sucessor to XP) and what will that do so differently that we'll care that much about it?

"Longhorn makes it easy for your information to show up on any device"

Say you have two PCs today. It's a huge pain that your Favorites on this machine are different than on this machine. Moving your files from this machine to this machine, getting your e-mail, your calendar, it's painful. Say you have a work calendar and a family calendar. Is it really easy to coordinate your family's schedule and see which events should be on both ones? Longhorn makes it easy for your information to show up on any device. It makes it easy to navigate that information.

Today navigating files is different than navigating e-mail, which is different than navigating the Web, which if you ever get into printers or fonts, those things are all different too. There are just way too many concepts on the PC. So taking this one storage metaphor that supersets those things , it's sort of like e-mail navigation though it's much richer than e-mail navigation is. And using that [type of navigation] for everything just reduces what you have to learn. And you put the rich searching in that's called replication that's showing up on all these devices and you get a very powerful platform.

Say you keep lists. Anytime that you've mentioned a restaurant, it automatically goes onto this list of restaurants, and your system would automatically keep track of what are the hours there, how that menu has changed. If you've mentioned a stock, it just goes on this list. It will keep track of what the price is, what's going on there. If you've mentioned a movie, keep track of is that in the theaters,, is that out on video, what have the reviews of that been?

If I said to somebody today how on your PC do you keep track of stocks, movies, music, restaurants, you can do it, but it's pretty painful, pretty manual. The system doesn't have this innate understanding of all the things you deal with in typical life. You go and get directions on the computer, you get this funny Web page, and you probably just print the thing out. The idea of storing that, having it when you're offline anyway a lot of these things are still pretty complex. So Longhorn is a change of the user interface to unify a lot of things that have been disparate. But it's a huge project. It's a very ambitious piece of work.

How long can you keep rolling in continuous upgrades of your desktop products, which are the linchpin of your business model?

As long as we can make people more productive through those tools, that we see about 15-20 years of pretty clear milestones that we can drive into those things. Until we've done a perfect job of that, we'll keep investing in those things.

Every time we do a new version, one of the competitors we face is the previous version. People have to decide whether we've made enough breakthroughs that it's worth buying that new version. I remember when we came out with Excel, people said "Hey everybody's got 1-2-3. Excel will never be successful. 1-2-3 does everything that we'd ever want it to do." But how do people take notes today? They take them on paper. Does that make it searchable? Does that make it easy to share with other people? No. Is this the ideal way notes can be taken? You have to assume hardware keeps advancing, because one of the key things that allows us to do better software are things like flat panel displays, better batteries, faster chips. It's the combination of hardware advances where we say "OK now those things we dreamed about for a long time we can do on the software." It's how those two things come together has always created the opportunity for new versions.

We're doing anything where software runs on TV, watches, video games, you name it. If it's about writing great software that can empower people, we're doing software for every one of those things. As long as we're doing a good job writing software we're targeting our software at the full range of devices. Think of these different categories. Software for watches not too many people in that work and we're pioneering that. Software for the pocket-sized device , well that's Nokia and Palm, and we're in that. Software for the TV set, which is clearly a very important center. Software for being in the car. Software for when you want to be at your desk. Software for when you want to carry things around and read the information. Software for major servers. So we're targeting software at all those different things.

Not just because we see individually that these are each exciting, profitable things, but also because we think people want a holistic view. If I teach my pocket-sized device how to recognize my speech, I'd like my Tablet PC to understand my speech, the computer in my car to understand my speech. I want my schedule to show up on all those things. And so by making it easy to integrate across those boundaries using a common use interface, a common set of development approaches, we think we can actually make this whole Digital Decade thing a reality. So we're not just betting on the desktop.

Technology is actually doing better work today than any year during the boom. The focus now is on making these systems easy to administer, the focus now is on what value you get out of the systems.

On linux and other competitorsWell those are our current competitors. I mean, it's no different than in the past people used [IBM's operating system] OS/2.

USA TODAY: Nobody used OS/2.

BG: Are you kidding? I mean, let's be serious. That was IBM, a company 15 times our size. Name a bank that didn't use OS/2. OS/2 was IBM's product, and the IBM army marched behind that product. People always think today's competition is somehow different and unique in some way. Let's be serious. I mean, we've had to bet the company many times on big technological advances. We bet on the 16-bit PC. We bet on graphical user interface. We bet on the NT technology base. Now we're in the process of betting on a combination of technologies called .Net; Longhorn Web services go along with that. You always have to do something very dramatic to move things up to the next level. Who has the guts and the willingness to do risk-taking to get ink into the standard user interface? Who else is going to push that forward? Who else has the guts to get speech, get the recognition levels up, get the learning levels up in the standard interface? We've chosen to do that. If we didn't believe in those things we wouldn't be increasing the R&D budget the way that we are.

On competing with Linux

BG: We will never have a price lower than Linux, in terms of just what you charge for the software. We compete on the basis of, if you look at the value you get out of the system and the overall cost that the system has that apply in our software. For any project, if you look at communications costs, hardware costs, personnel costs, all that, software licensing ranges the highest you'd ever find is, like, 3% of any IT-type project. And so the question is can that 3% compensate in terms of how quickly you get the system set up? How much value you get out of that system, can it justify itself in that way? And that's the business that we're in every day.

USA Today : A lot of people talk about making a lot of money in their lives but say that the most rewarding thing was to give it away. How does it feel to be helping so many people in this way? Is that the most satisfying part of your life?

Well the most satisfying part of my life is having kids, playing with my kids, things like that. If you get past that it's hard to pick between the satisfaction of developing smart people to build these software products that empower people and the impact that [the Foundation has] on a worldwide basis, the excitement of taking the latest medical technology and saying, "OK, there's this poor guy who's been wanting to work on malaria his whole life and nobody pays attention, nobody gives him money." And then we can come along and say "Hey, you are doing God's work. This is so important. Here, we'll fund your malaria vaccine" that type initiative.


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