Bill Gates Breakfast


He’s a smart guy.

Bill is in Sydney this week for a few meetings with important people.

This morning he had a developer breakfast and spoke on his vision for the future. I was there (due in part to my role as President of the Sydney VFP User Group, but more probably because a good friend in Microsoft is looking after me) with approx 160 other people from around Australia and New Zealand.

As a presenter Bill is very impressive. I am trying to work on my presentation skills, so I am tuning in to the ‘techniques’ that good presenters employ.

Firstly, his passion – he loves his job, his company and the technology they are developing. Without passion even the slickest presentation won’t inspire anyone. I mean this guy is the richest man in the world (I think – he may have been surpassed recently) and yet he takes the trouble to front up to a 7am breakfast and speak to a (smallish) group of developers about his and Microsoft’s vision for technology. That’s commitment and passion in my mind. Yeah sure, he put in a fair amout of sales speak and talked up some of the initiatives MS has introduced, but overwhelmingly (in my mind atleast) here is a guy that of all could people could retire and leave the travelling part to some well paid lackeys. But no, Bill is passionate and does it himself. I admire that.

Second, he know what he is talking about. I’m a little tired of head honchos yabbering on about the latest technologies with very little comprehension of the nitty gritty (some big telco CEOs in Australia come to mind). Bill knows what he’s talking about. I wouldn’t expect him to know the intimate details of protocols, but at a reasonably detailsed level this guy is well informed. Again, impressive.

Third, and this is a trivial thing – he used PowerPoint well, there were probably only 8-10 slides for the hour and they simply reinforced main points. I won’t go on, you’ve heard all the complaining people do about over-PPing…

So what did he say?

Well, he talked briefly about the history of computing from the late 70s, through hardware, telcos and then software (ie GUI, app development). Then he moved onto some of the challenges we face as a result eg the interconnectedness of computing has opened the door to security breaches.

He talked about MS R+D (around $6.8B) and their focus on security and usability.

I like his idea of unifying the programs we use for all our different ‘maintenance’ tasks eg organising email, music, folders, files, data, addresses, tasks, notes. Why can’t we use a common interface he asked? Obvious really, and I’m looking forward to the unity in future.

He also dicussed the use of mobile computing – he sees this as a big thing moving forward. A few things stand in the way of major uptake including speech recognition and ink recognition. The handwriting recognition technology is getting close, but speech is still 4-6 years away. Interestingly in China, with their larger alphabet, Bill claims they can input quicker with speech recognition than by keyboard.

Mobile phones with exceptional speech recognitiion will be a big advantage in the future. Need to schedule a meeting? Just tell your phone about it.

Tablet PCs have been around for a year or so in their present incarnation. And the ink recognition is at a point where a user can use it satisfactorily to take notes, draw diagrams etc without fumbling and making mental notes to ‘fix it up later’.

Need I say it but there is a big focus on .Net technologies, which Bill tries to make sound as though it is just the logical implementation of XML. Being predominantly a Visual FoxPro programmer I sometimes feel a little left out, and wonder if I should be jumping on the .Net band wagon. If you’d asked me a year ago I would have said no, we use the best product for our customers. But these days our customers (who have no idea about what their technical requirements are mind you) are asking me if we have a .Net strategy. You can’t ingore that or you’ll be left behind.

At our company we do all our desktop stuff with VFP and all Web stuff with .Net, and COM/middle tier is in either depending on the project. But I’m wondering if that is enough to ‘appease’ our clients in the long term? I’m mindful that technology is always changing and if you stand still you won’t be around for long. More on that in future blogs.

So, back to Bill. The point is that Bill is .Net personified. He sees it as the future. Sure, we knew that from all the billions in marketing, but seeing him this morning made it all the clearer to me.

Back to mobile computing for a tick. .Net is the best platform for developing mobile and PDA apps with database access. Combining the .Net spend support from MS and the massive boom in mobile devices in the next few years the development direction is getting clearer for me.

And that covers atleast 5 minutes of Bill’s hour long chat with us. These were the main points for me. I’d be remiss to not mention that XML and Web services in particular were a key to the whole presentation, but I was convinced of that a year ago so I won’t say too much, except to reinforce that Web Services are not about replacing existing infrastructure. No they are really about connecting them. But you knew that didn’t you?

A thoroughly enjoyable and focussed breakfast. A great chance to hear the man (my first time), and a wonderful time to sit and think about the future (proactive) as opposed to always defending/responding (reactive) to clients.


  • Nice summary. Congrats on being invited!

    For a smart guy to say BillG is smart…well I guess he must be bloody smart!

  • Nice summary. Congrats on being invited!For a smart guy to say BillG is smart…well I guess he must be bloody smart!

By Craig Bailey