Bill Gates: 2007 Microsoft MVP Global Summit

Keynote Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
2007 Microsoft MVP Global Summit
Seattle, Washington
March 13, 2007

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Rich Kaplan. (Cheers, applause.)

RICH KAPLAN [Microsoft Vice President, Customer Service, Partners and Automation]: Wow! This is quite a crowd. Welcome to Microsoft! (Cheers, applause.)

We are delighted to have you here. There’s about 1,700 MVPs here today, representing over 90 countries. And for the first time ever we are webcasting this introduction with Bill Gates. And so for the MVPs who couldn’t make it, they’ll be able to see it as well.

Now, where are the Korea MVPs? (Cheers, applause.)

They apparently got here early. Last night they did a martial arts exposition where they jumped over each other and broke boards in half; very impressive.

I challenge the rest of you next year to do better than the Korea MVPs. (Laughter.)

Okay, well, so, where are the Americas, people from the Americas, show of hands? (Cheers, applause.)

CROWD: Canada, Canada, Canada! (Cheers, applause.)

RICH KAPLAN: You’re an excited group of people. (Laughter.) That’s OK; we love that you’re here.

This week — this week is really about you guys. It’s about getting your feedback. It’s about listening to you. You know, most conferences that you go to, we speak to you. In this conference I hope mostly you speak to us, that we learn, that we hear, that we hear the issues that you have with our products, that you help to make it better. You’re the most incredible group of users out there.

So, thank you for that, and I would like to introduce our chairman, Bill Gates. (Cheers, applause.)

BILL GATES: Thank you. (Cheers, applause.) Well, it’s great to have you all here. This will be a fun couple of days. And as Rich said, we’re excited about what we can learn from you to make our products even better.

The last time I spoke to the MVP group was several years ago, back in 2004, and I was very excited to learn about the growth of this group. You represent over 90 different countries, and it’s by far record attendance. We have also a record number of people from the company who will be meeting with you and interacting with you, and who definitely have been looking forward to this event as well.

You know, the magic of software has done some amazing things. Microsoft is now a little over 30 years old, and throughout its entire history there’s been one thing that we’ve focused on, and that is building great software, both as a platform and as a set of direct tools that empower people to do new things.

And the incredible thing is that even after 30 years, the opportunity for what software can do is far greater today than it’s ever been. After all, we have the growing momentum behind the Internet and the content and programming models that exist out there. We’ve got the continued innovation of the hardware industry. That’s often exemplified by the increase in transistors predicted by Moore’s Law. No end in sight in terms of the doubling of power of the processor; in fact, now instead of giving us higher clock speed, they’re giving us more processors. And that’s an interesting challenge because the ability to take multiple processors and use them in parallel has been a programming challenge going back many, many decades, so now it’s important that we actually solve that problem, and make it possible for developers of all types to take advantage of these multi-core devices.

If we look at a typical desktop machine, today it’s already got two processors, but if we look out even five years, it will be more like 16 or 32 processors, and even more at the level of the server.

And so the chip industry continues to do their part. Whether it’s the CPU, the graphics chip, the chips that give us wireless connections, all of those things, improvements that simply allow the software industry to say, okay, what are we going to do with that.

You know, take the case of wireless capabilities. Wi-Fi, using a tiny little slice of spectrum, exploded into a huge thing. Now we’re looking at adding new spectrum down in the lower end, what we call white space, and making Wi-Fi even far better than it is today. In fact, if we get that to happen, the idea of having cities that have full Wi-Fi coverage will become far more economic than it is today.

And so bringing down the price of broadband so it can be essentially assumed by business and even assumed for students and people at home, that’s a clear thing that will allow software to get in and do its great work.

Another transition we’ve gone through recently is the beginning of the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit. Now, many of you have been around the industry long enough to remember that these address space transitions, where we get more memory on the machine, have often been very painful. The very first goes back to 1981 where we went from so-called 8-bit processors, which were actually 16-bits of memory space, 64k, to the IBM PC that gave us a megabit, 20-bit addressing. We had to do the software over. That actually was an opportunity for Microsoft; that’s where MS-DOS came in. Then we had the 286, took us up to 16 megabytes, and then we had the 386, which is where we’ve been really for the last 10 years or so with the 32-bit address space.

This transition is a very smooth one with upwards compatibility. In fact, more and more of the chips that get pulled are capable of 64-bit. And so, as the device drivers move across, we’ll see first on the server a big wave to very high percentage use there, and then with about a two to three-year lag, that will happen on the client machine as well.

And so once you get the 64-bit, the likelihood of another address space transition anytime soon is very, very low. In terms of a single machine, that should handle us for a long time to come.

The speed of the machines, as I said, is going to depend on this parallel programming. And so the operating system, as it has over the years, will take on higher level tasks. And so that as applications are calling the operating system, the sophistication of doing this parallel programming will be handled in the operating system itself. And so we’ll take the graphics layer and move it up to a much higher level of API. We’ll even take things like some of the physics capabilities and make those available in a standard runtime in the operating system, high level visualization, 3-D capabilities, those things built-in.

We’ll even have capabilities around database, not just your classic disk type database, but also an in-memory database where you’re manipulating XML-type data structures in a very rich way. And so often the things that applications had to do themselves, they’ll be able to turn over and let us do in a very parallel fashion using rich runtime libraries that we create.

As we look at how people think about the personal computer, the Internet and software, you can see that it changes year by year. There’s no black and white demarcation like we had when we went from character mode interface to graphics user interface. But think about something like video and how we use that on the PC. Five years ago, video was a very uncommon thing. It was too big for the disk, the speed of the processor, just decoding it, getting it up on the screen, you know, video was not going to be something typical. Well, now today we’re seeing a video revolution. More and more people are thinking, boy, all the videos that I have, that I edit, that I keep, that I want to look up, should be kept on the PC, and they should be put out on the Internet to be shared and made available.

This is incredibly revolutionary. It’s not just taking things like the shorts that you see on something like YouTube, but it’s taking meetings in the company, and taking a cheap digital camera, and being able to record it, and have the software prepare a transcript of what was said, have the software actually do the direction to know who’s speaking at what time, and then letting people later who want to find a portion of that, look it up, actually see the parts that they’re most interested in.

Corporate training will change utterly. Even education, the idea that all the lectures are going online for free, universities like MIT have decided that, yes, they’ll put their videos up, and anybody can come in and see them, so other universities will do that as well. So, for a student who’s interested in a topic can go out and learn whatever you want, just getting one of these videos. They put the tests online as well.

And so that promises to create new opportunities in education where teachers can take other people’s material, either their lectures or the way they demonstrate things, the way they take something like global warming or rockets or volcanoes, and explain those, you can take the digital parts of that, both video, animation, photos, and edit those things, and use them for your class.

So, the idea for the first time we get sharing and improvement of teaching through this digital medium and the magic of software, that’s going to become a reality.

Educational institutions will have to think, OK, do they do lectures, do they do study groups, do they do accreditation, and you’ll see some specialization that will make it a far more effective realm.

We’ll even see the idea of TV itself utterly change. TV we always used to think of as a limited number of channels, and so something that was specialized like your kid’s sports activity or something about a hobby that you have, you would never expect to find that on TV. Well, as we use the Internet to deliver those video signals, the guide that shows you what you might be interested in will encompass all the things you might care about, including what’s commonly called tail video. It will all be there, customized, based on the interests that you have.

Likewise, the shows themselves can be quite different. Instead of the news just being everybody sees the same, if you want to see more about soccer or the weather or skiing or various international issues, that’s what you’ll see, and other people will see what’s interesting to them.

The ads will be based on your interests, and even if you are intrigued by what they say, you can interact and get more information.

And so the Internet is taking all the ways that information is distributed and changing them. Video in a sense is the final frontier in terms of size and bits, particularly as we move up to high-definition, the most challenging, and now today the ability to edit those things is becoming very possible.

The dreams we have about software are very ambitious. We see that things like taking the soundtrack and doing speech recognition to create that transcript, that’s been a dream for a long time, we’ve been working over 15 years on that. The software that does that kind of speech recognition is getting far better.

Even machine translation, which has been a very difficult challenge, there’s progress that documents of certain types, like technical documents, we can do that quite well.

As we’re seeing more and more cameras connected up, even visual recognition is becoming something of interest, so that we can recognize objects.

Microsoft, because of our success, we can take a long term view out into what we should be doing to have breakthroughs in software. We’ve even got now a group that’s doing software for robots. And it’s just like at the beginning of the personal computer; we don’t know exactly what these will look like, or what the most popular applications will be. There are many possibilities, ranging from toys to helping elderly people in medical situations, to security type applications, manufacturing applications. But we know that having software that takes the idea of planning and sensors and vision, and all the data and even robots working together, that that’s an interesting software challenge. So we want to be there at the very beginning, listening to the people, building the great hardware, or thinking about the applications, and providing the software platform.

It’s very interesting that the software we’re doing there fits into the whole theme of how software is changing, this move towards Web services. When we used to think about software, we always thought about a piece of software running on one machine, and all of its data had to be there. Well, today we think about software running essentially across the Internet, and instead of just a subroutine call on one machine, we can make a Web-service call that will find a resource and connect up to other machines.

And so the idea that, say, you call Virtual Earth, which is a Web service we provide, with great mapping type information, your program can bring that down, and add information on top of that to create more value there. And so instead of you having to duplicate or run that on your computer, you simply see that as a service.

That’s going to be happening more and more. In fact, services like backup storage or file storage, those will be done in the Internet at low cost. And so that can mean something like if you use multiple devices, that your storage can go up onto the Internet — we sometimes say into the cloud — be stored there, and then when your other device comes on, the information becomes available to it. So the scale of computation and capabilities that will be available will be quite diverse. So, the programming backbone is much more the entire Internet than only a single machine.

The shape of the datacenter will change. People like Microsoft and others who do search and big Internet services are building datacenters that today have hundreds of thousands and in the future will literally have millions of computers. And the way we do that to make sure that even if any one computer fails, that the system automatically recovers, those techniques can be applied in datacenters even going down to very small ones. And so taking the advance in hardware, and not only using it for performance, but using it for reliability is a very big deal.

In the future eventually when you actually write a piece of software, you won’t actually know what computer it runs on. There will be management software that looks at all the pool of resources and decides, based on the responsiveness you want and which machine is working and the hardware parameters required, and decides how many machines to run it on, and therefore gets that right type of capability. So, things like emergency recovery, you’ll often be able to take your software and run it on machines that you rent instead of your having to do that yourself. Information will be geo-distributed so that a problem at any one location can’t cause either the software running or the data to be lost.

And so now we can think about all kinds of things being connected up to the Internet. The PC is the full-screen device, and, of course, that’s moving to new form factors, things like the tablet computer where we have ink recognition and it’s a very thin device that’s great for reading. We think that every student will want to have one of those, and that eventually you won’t have textbooks, you’ll just have the tablet and it will be cheap enough that that just becomes a commonsense way for learning to be done.

So, the PC as it changes, as it moves to the living room as a new server form, also we’ve got the phone coming along, the device in the pocket. The changes there, of course, are very rapid as well, and that’s why Microsoft is getting in, doing software there. That device will become richer and richer. It will have location information, it will have digital money stored in there. It will have the ability when it’s near a large screen to actually project onto that large screen. We’ve shown that screens are going to be everywhere, that the cost of a projector that can project onto a table or a wall will be very inexpensive, even under $100. And so even in a kid’s bedroom, all the walls, you can project and create whatever sort of ambience or situation you want. In a meeting room in business, when you say, hey, I’d like to get this data, the data can simply be projected down onto the table or the whiteboard as you work with it, and so we won’t be limited by the way we think about screens today.

Three-dimensional models, which we’ve talked about for a long time, will start to be a very standard thing. Today, when we think about shopping on the Internet, well, it’s still this flat, 2-D type interface, but because of the advance in graphics and performance, we’ll be able to create stores, stores that match the real store or stores that don’t exist at all, but have been custom made based on the interests that you have.

You’re starting to see this today with things like Virtual Earth where we’re taking satellite photography and actually filling in with airplane photos and databases a realistic view of the world. And so as you fly around in that world, you can see the traffic, and you can also take a building, a store, and go in and get the shop, you can go into the courthouse and see what’s going on there. And so it’s not just it can represent the real reality or it can be something that’s made up.

Allowing people to do that on any Web site, making our tools better so that if you want a virtual store, you’re simply calling software capabilities, and that becomes very easy to do, that’s something our platform will deliver and make very, very easy.

And there will be lots of services, identity services, payment services, reputation services that allow communities to be built up that can do things using common standards or do things in a very unique way.

In software itself we’re going to be doing more modeling to make it easier to express a business process or a workflow, and so it’s not nearly as difficult to develop these applications.

We have a goal literally to make business programming require a tenth the code that it requires today. Microsoft is now using a process we call our Quest process where we write down our dreams about software, and say what will the office look like 10 years from now when the cameras and the screens and the communications are different, when there is no PBX but it’s all done over the Internet, how will that look. What will the home look like as the projection screens and the Internet TV and the great mobile devices are there? And so we write that down, and we see what software breakthroughs or business intelligence or workflow or security will be required to do that, and then we match the quest with the product plans and see that they’re moving towards that ultimate capability.

And so the explosion in the power of software and how it’s affecting business and entertainment and science is far greater today than it’s ever been. It builds year by year with the advances.

Of course, this last year has been a very big one for us. Getting [Windows] Vista into the marketplace, and Office 2007 was a very big deal. And, in fact, the people here in this room were incredibly important to allowing that to happen.

I was thinking, wow, last year we had a lot of software in beta, a lot of hard work to get that into its final form. Today, we don’t have as much in beta, a little bit of breathing room for everybody as we get ready for our next round, which a typical product cycle, so the big products are every two or three years.

So, it’s amazing looking at the work you do and the way it helps people, the way it helps us decide what to put in our products. It really makes a huge difference.

And so I want to thank you for that, thank you for being part of an amazing community and being part of this digital revolution. Year by year we’re just going to see this thing advance. And it’s very exciting to be a part of it, and Microsoft is committed to helping you in any way we can continue the great help you provide to users everywhere.

Thank you.