Sports stars of renown sometimes announce a retirement year and then make the proverbial victory lap around the league, receiving accolades and honoraria as they go from town to town. Sports for Bill Gates seems pretty much confined to bridge – although he is probably a mean Mine Sweeper player too. In any case, his last hurrah is getting into motion. He is due to retire from a day-to-day role at Microsoft next year, and his recent sit-down with a group of notable bloggers – including the redoubtable Julie Lerman, Rob Howard, Keith Peters, and others – gives a sense of themes from the upcoming farewell tour.
Kip Kniskern of LiveSide was among those in attendance He blogged about the experience, and even posted a full downloadable transcript of the conversation with Gates.
During the roundtable conversation, Gates looks at the technology world, today, the past and the future. There follow some quick takeaways.
The Past: The GUI revolution – At several times he recalls the advent of the GUI as a significant event that Microsoft seized upon. For example: “WordPerfect was late. We were early … we didn’t win in word processing until people bet against graphics user interface[s], and we bet on graphics user interface … People didn’t believe in graphics user interfaces. They thought, oh, this is too slow; it’s too hard to write the software. It took a lot of evangelization, going out convincing people to do things.”
The Present: On openness, the Internet, blogging – “Our success is not based on any type of secrecy about what we’re doing. Apple likes secrecy, but good luck to them. It’s not a period of time where it’s that easy to keep secrets.”
The Future: Microsoft Research as a view to what is next – “[If] you want to know what Microsoft is doing five years from now, go to the Microsoft Research Web site and see what [is appearing] about social computing, or see what the 3D graphics guys are saying about how that pipeline will change, or look at how the translation guys, the breakthroughs they’ve made recently in being able to take documents in different languages and translate them in different directions.”
Oh, Gates also let drop that the next version of IE would be called IE8. We would stop the presses but this is the Internet.