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Bill Gates' Vision for the Future

Kim Hart

Speaking to a packed room of Northern Virginia technology executives, this morning Bill Gates reiterated some of the messages he's said in the past, including how powerful research investment can be and how important a role software continues to play in how we use technology. I shot some video from the event and you can see it by clicking here.

Gates spoke to members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council this morning at the Capitol Hilton downtown. He opened by thanking the Virginians for crossing the river for the event.

He spent a few minutes talking about the biggest change he sees coming to the world of computers. In a familiar pitch, Gates said he envisions software that can interact with us on more human levels by recognizing our voices, our faces and hand gestures. Equipped with cheap digital cameras, computers will someday have sight. You'll someday be able to put a digital camera on your coffee table and have pictures automatically displayed. "Right now we use the keyboard and mouse," he said. "We'll finally be able to compliment that with a natural user interface."

He sees interactive tablet PCs replacing textbooks and notebooks in schools. Students will call up everything they need on their tablet PCs and write everything directly on the screen to be stored there. His daughter's school, he said, is already using this technology. But, for most schools, the cost of the new computers will not come down enough to be a reasonable alternative to traditional textbooks for another two to four years, he predicted.

After Gates testified before Congress yesterday, he and Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief of research and strategy, visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill to talk about their concerns over U.S. competitiveness and the need for more money going toward research and education. Mundie joined Gates on stage to answer questions from the audience, and hammered home his idea that policymakers often make short-sighted decisions rather than investing in what would be best for the future.

One example of such a decision, Mundie said, was the FCC's decision to auction off available public spectrum rather than allocating some of the airwaves to white space technology. White space technology is a project Microsoft believes could expand Wi-Fi signals and connect more people to broadband. (The auction of those airwaves is underway now and should be wrapping up soon. A Microsoft prototype that would use such white spaces is being tested by the FCC.)

Congress and the FCC "decided it would be better to balance the budget and auction off that spectrum," Mundie said. "If we don't make informed policy choices, the country may fall farther behind" in terms of broadband penetration.

Gates pointed to another example of the government trading the potential for longer-term benefits from research funding for a quick economic boost with tax rebates. "Compared to a tax-payer rebate, putting money into more research benefit has a multiplier benefit, but in more of a 10-year time-frame," he said. "We're very concerned about those kinds of trade-offs."

By Kim Hart  |  March 13, 2008; 1:49 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Gates' vision also includes importing highly-exploitable foreign workers under "guest worker" programs, so that high-tech employers don't have to offer the working conditions that highly-skilled American workers demand.

If Microsoft and other companies want to continue importing labor, the people that they bring in shouldn't be tied to their employers in order to stay in the United States. That sets up a situation that is ripe for abuse -- and we see it played out constantly today.

Posted by: ORFTC | March 13, 2008 8:03 PM

Gates want to make sure America cannot compete in the world economy placing more faith in indian workers and destroying the American education system. He wants to drive down wages and have a more submissive workforce. Will anyone stop him, no, no one has the guts. too many dems have already kissed his behind.

Posted by: Dwight | March 13, 2008 8:52 PM

I feel that bad-mouthing Bill Gates is fairly unhealthy and that we ought to be discussing each of his points here, as they all make perfect sense. If we fail to innovate freely, we all lose. The is the greatest nation in the history of humankind, with a 16-17 trillion dollar GDP and 303 million people in it. We must look at the road ahead and constantly re-assess. The incremental changes and dialogue of Mr. Gates and his team are of supreme value, we ought to be listening and thinking, not condemning a gentleman who has helped to bring us into this century. He volunteers his wisdom to our leadership, they ought to listen, I know I am.

Posted by: Lance Winslow | March 13, 2008 9:38 PM

Microsoft already HAS research divisions in China and India, among others. Why import Indian or Chinese workers ? What Gates really wants is to drive down the wages of American tech workers, pure and simple.

There's a reason he's compared to Darth Vader and Microsoft is called the Evil Empire.

Posted by: Sam Rainey | March 14, 2008 10:39 AM

Hey Lance Winslow; good point you made...just one problem.

Bill Gates is a lier. Pure and simple he has lied to congress and the workers they have replaced over the years.

They were replace with H1B workers who were paid less then 1/2 of the wage of American workers, with no health insurance, no vacation pay, no Social Security payments...ECT.

This is about driving down the wages for American workers at the cost of America. Gates is not the only one but he is the largest employer pushing hard to remove limits.

This is about profit pure and simple, nothing more nothing less. They want more money in their pocket at ALL cost.

As someone inside the tech industry I have seen this for many years and knew it was going to get worse before Bush left office.

After watching him lie to congress and they drool over his bank account I knew then and there that our Tech industry is just about through. Gates will continue to use H1B workers over American workers and be rewarded for his efforts by Washington with tax cuts.

You ask why does he not just move his programmers to India? The answer is simple, software made in India is not as profitable as made in USA. Corporations will not feel safe to install software made in India.

They fear back doors, bugs, virus ect. So Gates brings them into America where they can plant virus, bugs, hacks here and get away with it because it's made in America and that equals trust.

We now hear that products built in China are showing up on store shelfs with hacks, virus, password crackers, ect installed from the factory.

Nobody holds the factory accountable, they say it's just a bad employee and not their fault. So once again the consumer will pay the price and nobody is held accountable.

The Consumer will suffer and corporations will profit and nobody is willing to stop them, nobody is willing to hold them accountable for their products. It only effects the consumer and well....NOBODY speaks up for the consumer in Washington or our legal system these days.

Welcome to America Inc,

Posted by: Mr.Z | March 14, 2008 11:23 AM

Some of these comments are nothing more than pig ignorance.
Drive down wages. You have NO idea what you're talking about. These jobs pay more than 90% of the jobs out there. Microsoft wages and benefits are more than competitive with those paid by your beloved (but actually as evil as MS) Apple, Google, Yahoo and every other high tech company in the Valley. Hating on Microsoft (and kissing Apple's and Google's collective ass) is easy pickins. Why not actually use your own brain instead of blindly repeating what you read on some blog?

Posted by: Seattle | March 14, 2008 11:27 AM

to seattle, why not hire Americans in America and hire foreigners in their own land. but note any company should not be able to write off expenses occured in development in a foreign land. and if the indians swipe your software, live with it, it's their nature.

Posted by: Dwight | March 14, 2008 12:49 PM

To Dwight,
Ignoring for a moment your racist stereotype about Indians, MS, Apple, Yahoo, Google all hire Americans in America, Americans overseas, 'foreigners' in America and 'foreigners' overseas. All these companies all global in scope and are big enough that they need people all over the world. There was a dramatic drop in computer science majors in America after the tech bust of the early 00's, but even so, I defy you to find me a qualified American who can't get a job at one of those companies because 'a foreigner got their job'. That's pure bull. And not 'my cousin knows somebody who' or 'I read an article that says...' because that's the myth, not the reality.

Posted by: Seattle | March 14, 2008 1:20 PM

To the Seattle idiot:

My experience, finding that I could not get jobs that went to foreigners, even though I have 2 engineering degrees. I finally gave up and moved out into the country, since it was obvious that I could not compete with the foreign students that came over on student visas, then stayed on to take the jobs. The students had the latest education and I was getting old. I'm still not at retirement age and I've not found technical work for 15 years. Your promotion of the MS Empire just shows your not really interested in the U.S.. Neither is Bill Gates, as he is sending his wealth to Africa, instead of investing in the people of the U.S. One hint. Computers don't put more oil in the ground and we appear to be at Peak Oil production.

Microsoft has repeated stolen ideas from others, incorporating them into the PC operating systems in such a way that killed the independent programmers. DR DOS was always a better operating system than MS DOS. I was a DOS programmer, doing AI research, but never made the transition to Windows. No wonder there are so few Americans interested in doing that sort of work. The latest Vista system is such a system hog that only the newest machines can run it. That's why Windows XP sells for more than Vista. Get the picture?

Posted by: E. S. | March 14, 2008 1:38 PM

To ES, Nothing like resorting to name calling when you don't have a cogent argument. The DR-DOS stuff is ancient history, and your comments about Vista, oil and Africa are off topic. I'm not just talking about MS, I'm talking about all the companies in Silicon Valley--but you don't want to talk about them, do you? Where's Jobs putting his money? Where's Jerry Yang putting his money? Why aren't you p*ssing and moaning about them?

And could it be that your lack of employment opportunities have nothing to do with Microsoft? Naaah. They cause global warming, too. Give me a break.

Posted by: Seattle | March 14, 2008 2:01 PM

The reason hi tech companies hire overseas talent, is because of America's lack of science and math emphasis. This is a disturbing trend that he tried to address with Congress. In fact our fairly flat population growth is going to ensure a steady stream of immigrant workers in the future. If you want a hi tech job, then you will have to compete for it.

Posted by: Mugwamp | March 14, 2008 5:38 PM

Ah, the lies we believe.

There is no labor shortage of IT workers; companies like HP, MS, and others want guest workers *simply because they're cheaper*.

Here's my change.... get rid of H1B

and then... any worker who comes here after 6 months of high-tech simply gets a green card.

You can bet that Bill Gates would argue against that change, primarily because foreign workers would be paid the prevailing wage. That is not what bill gates is interested in.

Isn't it interesting that Bill Gates is willing to give so much to people in the 3rd world, but won't pay a decent wage in his own backyard?

His hypocrisy is stunning.

Posted by: Ombudsman | March 14, 2008 9:30 PM

I'm interested in hearing Mr Gates vision of the future and thank Miss Hart for writing up the article.
You know one thing I keep noticing is that some people seem to know better what it is they want to do and are more adept at generating the teamwork that is the catalyst for change.
Come to think about it those same people are better at promoting idea and innovation than postulating about their rivals.
Go figure!
Might just have to try a PC someday.
Good luck!

Posted by: Gary L | March 15, 2008 12:39 AM

Gates is only fulfilling his needs to make great software at a reasonable price. All you haters out there must understand that if you were in his position you would be tempted, and would do the same.

Simple facts of the matter are America's workers aren't competitive enough to succeed against half price foreigners.
These foreigners deserve all the rights we are entitled to. This is called freedom.
If we have to take away these rights to protect ourselves then we no longer have freedom.
Captilism works. Want proof. Look at the millions to billions given away by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to help our schools, to help find cure for diseases and to aid struggling third world nations get potable drinking water.
These are all good things.

Posted by: stgenerations | March 17, 2008 10:25 AM

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