Bill Gates: Innovation Day, Korea

Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
Seoul, Korea
May 6, 2008

BILL GATES: Thank you. I’m excited to be here tonight, and talk to you about the exciting future that we all share.

The Seoul Digital Forum is a wonderful get-together. I had a chance to address you in video in 2004, but it’s a lot better to be here in person, and also share my congratulations on the fifth anniversary of this event.

I got started over 30 years ago when Paul Allen and I saw the very first microprocessor. It was being offered for $360, and it wasn’t very powerful. But the idea that it would double in power every two years made Paul Allen and I realize that this would be the most fantastic tool that mankind ever had, and that it would be very different than computers were thought of at that time.

Computers were big and expensive, and they were more the tool of governments and big businesses, and nothing to do with empowering the individual to be more creative, and to collaborate with other people.

But the microprocessor was destined to change that.

We saw that there was one missing element, and that was software. So, we decided that there needed to be a company that would build a software platform, and reach out to other companies and get an entire software industry going.

So, that started in 1975. The personal computer came out of that vision. It’s been so exciting to see many companies join in on this.

The innovation on the hardware and software side has been phenomenal. We moved from kit computers to computers that had disks. We moved from 8-bit up to 16-bit. We moved from character mode to graphics user interface with products like Windows. And then we had the explosion of connecting all the devices together around the Internet and all of the great content and Web sites that have come out of that. It really is amazing to see how far the industry has come.

But my key message to you tonight is that as far as we’ve come and as fast as we’ve come, the years ahead are even more exciting. The advances in hardware and software will let us use computing in very different ways, whether it’s making business more effective, education more effective, scientific discovery more effective, or even just the fun things we do, playing games or entertaining ourselves in our homes.

Now, Korea is a great place to be talking about this, because there are so many pioneering things going on here in Korea. The personal computer and the Internet became very popular here, and so that created an opportunity for lots of software companies to show up, and start to think about things in a new and different way. Whether it was the personal computer or the mobile phone, all of these things are really quite innovative in terms of what’s happening here.

The PC install base is very substantial, has gone up very healthily, and, of course, what we mean by the PC, it’s far more capable today than ever in the past. Back in 2000 when you thought about the PC, you didn’t think about music and photos; you just thought about word processing documents. You didn’t think about instant messages or online encyclopedias. And yet today those are a standard part of what the machine does.

Video was not a data type you could work with, because it was just too big and too expensive. Now, in only eight years we’re to the point where whether it’s entertainment videos or recording a business meeting or a lecture from a university, having that up on the Internet or storing it on your PC and being able to watch it there is considered a very standard activity. So, it’s a period of growth and substantial innovation where this market has been very strong.

Another place we see great leadership in Korea is in the whole are of broadband. The growth in broadband usage globally has been very substantial.

We could never achieve the full potential of the Internet if it was just dial-up. It was too slow to set it up. Once you got it connected, it would take too long. With those slow speeds of dial-up, people always were worried that your images were too high resolution and the idea of video never could have made sense.

It’s only with broadband when we can say to ourselves, any information we want to get, whether it’s something simple like movie times or the latest news or sports scores, or from a business point of view seeing what’s going on with our customers, our competitors, if you can just sit down and immediately be connected up to that information, it’s very, very different.

Now that the personal computer is not a standalone device, it’s connected up to all these other machines, it’s having a much bigger impact.

Well, it’s very impressive the way that the Korea market got out in front on this. Many other countries are still struggling to think how do they create the incentives to get their broadband markets to be both high penetration and fairly low cost so that they can get wide availability.

I’ve said it’s not just the personal computer; of course, we’re revolutionizing the device in our pocket. We call it a phone, but it’s not really the same as the phone was 10 years ago. The phone 10 years ago was just about voice. If it had a screen at all, it was a very, very crummy screen. Today, we see the screen of the phone improving very substantially.

And what does that mean? That means for reading things, for even watching video or TV that mobile device will come in and be part of the mix. In fact, the boundary between where does the phone stop and where does the small portable PC stop, there won’t be any real boundary there; all of these devices will be very popular and very powerful.

Things like having mapping capabilities so they can show you where you are, or if your friends are willing, show you where they’re located, that’s something we’ll just take for granted.

The idea of digital currency that we can pay for things with our phone, that will just be a very standard capability.

We need to have data plans where we have high speed and very high limits in terms of what people can do. So, here in Korea the data revenue has gone up but the generosity of these data plans have improved a lot, so people can really start to think of browsing on the phone and information on the phone as something that’s very important.

One area that was particularly unique is the developing of online gaming. Gaming has always been a huge part of why the personal computer is popular, from solitaire games to the very first computer program I ever wrote played a game called Monopoly, which is a board game. So, all the different kinds of games have been brought to computing.

But here this idea of online environments Korea was the first mover in that, and in this next decade that I think of as the second digital decade, because it’s about 10 years since the Internet really first came in and started digitizing things, these ideas of socializing and being online in communities will be all the more important. It’s a very big business and one that I think can have an impact on a global basis, and that we want to help move that forward.

So, now let’s just talk about these futures. What’s going to change? Why can we be more ambitious in these next 10 years than we’ve been today?

Well, I think it’s important to think about what’s fueled our advance up to this point. That Moore’s Law prediction of doubling the number of transistors on every chip, and being able to do that every two years or so, that’s exponential improvement. We don’t see that in any other part of the economy. We don’t see it in terms of food productivity or car mileage or literally anything. The fact that the personal computer that’s offered today is over a million times more powerful than the first IBM personal computer, and it costs about a tenth as much, that is just unheard of in all of economic endeavor. So, that’s why it’s changed its character, that’s why it’s become so pervasive and it’s reaching out to so many people.

But the thing that’s driven that forward, which has been a combination of hardware innovation and software innovation, in no way is that slowing down. In fact, I’d suggest to you that it’s accelerating. There are more young people learning how to write software today than ever before. After all, the Windows PC, the Internet, these are very much global phenomena, and as the economic status of the world has gotten better, people from all over are able to get online, and contribute. They can contribute software they want to be free, they can contribute software they want to charge for, they can put up Web sites. So, the more people who participate, the more valuable the Internet is. So, that’s building and building.

Each of these people when they do work, they build on the work of each other. So, we can expect that the variety and quality of software will actually accelerate in the years ahead.

The level of the hardware will give us permission to do new things. You know, I mentioned video as something that just wouldn’t have been practical in the past. 3D environments are now far more practical. If you want to simulate, say, a car and what it’s going to look like, try out the design without actually building it, it’s the quality of the graphics capability that lets us do this.

One area of hardware innovation where Korea is a hotbed of activity, but I don’t think anybody can say exactly when it will explode into a large market, is the area of robotics.

Microsoft has a dedicated group that’s doing for robotics exactly what we did for personal computers. We’re providing a Software Development Kit that helps them all work together. So, you can take many robots and have different software modules and have different peripherals, and make it easy to share, easy to have a platform for innovation, and that was a key thing that we did that allowed personal computing to come together.

Well, in the second digital decade one of the big breakthroughs will be the way that we interact with the computer. So far, despite all this unbelievable success, almost all we do is keyboard interaction, keyboard and mouse. Whether it’s with our cell phone we have a nice little keyboard, our PC we’ve got a big keyboard, and it’s really just one person sitting at the machine interacting with that screen.

Now, that’s fantastic for some types of shopping or writing a homework paper or filling out your tax return. Really you want one person just there, and the keyboard is very effective if you want to enter text. So, I’m not saying that that’s going to go away, but, in fact, that will only be one way that we interact with the machine. We are finally getting a level of hardware and software that what I call natural interaction has become practical.

This has been discussed for a long time. One of the ideas for natural interaction is to talk to the computer, and have it recognize your speech. This turned out to be a more difficult problem to write the software to make that work well than we expected. But Microsoft and others have been investing literally billions of dollars in that, and together with extra memory, extra processor speed, and more learning, better microphones, multiple microphones, we can now say that speech interaction is moving into the mainstream, so that you can talk to your cell phone and say who you’re interested in calling or what stock price you’re interested in.

Likewise with your PC, if you don’t like using the keyboard, you’ll be able to dictate what you’re interested in.

So, speech is part of the natural interface.

Another part is the pen. We all learn to write at a fairly young age, and it’s fairly natural to think that we should have a computer that’s like a tablet that you can simply write on the surface and have that ink be recognized or even just preserved as ink.

If you’re in a meeting and you want to take notes, if you’re a student at a lecture, this is far more effective than making a lot of noise trying to type on the keyboard.

So, this idea of the table computer is one that Microsoft has invested in, many of our partners have, and we’re getting it smaller and cheaper and lighter and making that software better.

The dream here is a very ambitious one, and that is to replace textbooks so that instead of having to buy big paper textbooks that you can only use in a very limited way, instead that curriculum would come up onto this tablet computer. It’s a big difference when every student has something like this, where they can interactively try out their ideas or navigate information or communicate with each other. They can look at a timeline or an animation.

Already teachers around the world are doing innovative work on this idea of a tablet machine. In fact, the pilots here in Korea have an ambitious goal of by 2012 getting to this as a standard approach, if things go well, and I certainly believe in that very much and want to support that.

In fact, later this week, I’m at a conference where some of the people involved in the pilot are coming down, and are presenting their excitement about this. It’s been tried now in thousands of schools around the world, and the teachers who embrace it and change the curriculum find that it makes them far, far more effective.

So, that idea of a tablet device where you do your reading there is just one thing that shows up in this next digital decade. We believe that screens, projectors will be very inexpensive, and so they will essentially be anywhere. Likewise cameras will be very inexpensive. You’ll be able to see what somebody is doing. So, if you stand in front of your TV set, you’ll be able to either use the remote control or just point and choose the shows that you’re interested in.

If somebody is at your front door, you’ll be able to see whose there, and understand that.

Videoconferencing will finally be a mainstream thing.

A kid who wants to customize their room, instead of having a lot of posters and things, will just use these digital displays to put up anything they want on their four walls. In fact, if what they have they think their parents might not like, as soon as they hear their parents coming, they just push a button and it changes, because it’s digital. It’s a lot easier than trying to take the posters down when you year your parents coming.

So, the whole environment will be very, very different.

Microsoft’s created a table type device we call Surface where anybody can point to things and move them around, so organizing photos or selecting choices.

The cost of natural interface will be very, very low. Think of it as essentially free, because most of the magic will be in the software.

So, these devices will be far more pervasive in this second digital decade. They’ll be far more natural. In fact, the boundary between one and the other won’t be as clear. If I carry my cell phone in to a place where I have a big screen, then I’ll see that big screen will project that information from my cell phone.

Now, many of the examples I’ve given are relating to things in the home. We also should remember that the biggest impact of computing has actually been in business. The work people do in terms of marketing and sales and finance decisions and product design, staying in touch, organizing complex activities, e-mail, the Internet, and the documents around that, and the business application software have made a huge difference.

Well, that can be improved very dramatically. The business productivity will be rising faster in this next decade than in the last. It will make the world a smaller place: the ability to work, a business that has many different locations, the ability of your employees to collaborate together; likewise, if you’re working with partners, the ability to collaborate with them.

Some of the key things will be that we’ll move away from the current phone PBX system that’s been very rigid, and we’ll move to a phone that is connected over the Internet. In fact, on your desk you won’t have the business phone and the PC, you’ll just have one device that combines both, and the rich software of the PC will remember who’s called and help you organize things, and, in fact, when they’re calling from their desk, you’ll be able to share the PC screen and edit documents together, not just talk verbally, you’ll also have a video feed when you want that.

New techniques around social networking will let you find other employees with common interests who want to solve the same problem, you know, make the idea of drawing on all the resources of the business easier.

Searching for information that really counts, that has anybody ever done something that’s the same, that will be a lot better.

The ability to have business intelligence where you have an indicator that shows you what’s going on with quality or sales or efficiency of any type, that will be very straightforward, and all the workers will have common goals, see those metrics, be able to look and dive in and see it in detail. So, business intelligence is not just for executives but really for everyone in the company.

At home I talked about the Surface display that you’ll be able to sit and touch, the table device, the living room environment where gaming and TV will have come together, and TV will be personalized. It won’t just be the broadcast shows, it will be the shows that you’re interested in as well.

Now, how can we achieve these great futures, these great opportunities? Well, it takes long term investments. For a country it means building up top universities, it means building up the infrastructure. For a company like Microsoft it means building up our research group. It was 16 years ago where we got to a size where we decided we could do that and hire top researchers and have them work in partnership with the leading universities.

These researchers’ work is why I’m confident about the future of our innovation. Their ideas have come into all the products we do, from Windows to Office, to Surface, to the videoconferencing thing called RoundTable, new ideas that we’re pursuing in search.

Here in Korea we’ve reached out to the universities, and there’s a lot of great ones here, and now we have over 50 research projects that we’re collaborating together with Microsoft Research.

A great example in systems biology is some software work we’re doing with Dr. Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. This idea that software is a key tool for all the sciences, that’s becoming very widely recognized. We need to use software to look at the data and understand new things, whether it’s biology like he is doing or physics, material science; any of these fields software skills are important, and that’s why we’re reaching out. We’ve had as part of that 20 interns actually come to our Microsoft Research sites, the very best, and then able to go back and share some of those ideas.

I wanted to show you a great example of this. It’s a great example of how software can let you see information in a rich new way. This is called the World Wide Telescope.

The idea is kind of breathtaking. It’s how can you make looking up at the sky and explaining all the different things that are up there, make that easy and fun. Of course, there’s a lot of textbooks you could go tell a kid to read, but how could you make it so they feel like they can just immediately get at it.

So, here this is a piece of software called WorldWide Telescope. I’m just going to go click on Jupiter here, and you can see it navigates you on the sky and zooms you in, and there we can see Jupiter. I can just take my mouse, I can zoom out or zoom in, and Jupiter is pretty big. I can see actually one of Jupiter’s moons here, these little dots here on the left are what’s going around Jupiter. So, I think that’s familiar, that’s interesting.

But what about the constellations I see? Let me click on one that I’ve seen up in the sky, and it will take me from Jupiter, and I can see, okay, how far across is it, it’s zooming me out, and then move me over in the sky, and then it will put me exactly on Cygnus.

But when I get here, I think, well, in what ways could I look at this? Well, in fact, there are many telescopes pointed out into the sky, and so I’d like to be able to take one of those and just select it, and see it in a different way.

So, for example, if I look at that heat map I can see it looks one way, if I look at the x-ray, and so, in fact, there are many different ways that you can see different information. You can see the microwaves, you can see the x-ray views.

Now, the x-ray view is associated with supernova explosions. We can see down here there, wow, that’s very unusual. Let me move that up to the middle, and I’m going to go ahead and zoom in on that. So, this x-ray view, in fact, shows that supernova.

Now, let’s look, what does that look like in the visual range? So, this is called the cross-fade where that’s the visual image, so you can see there are remnants of the dust down on the edges, but, in fact, the best way to really see there was a supernova in that constellation is to go back and cross-fade in and see those x-ray things.

Now, one of the most spectacular things that is in the night sky are what are called these nebulas. One of the best of those is the Crab Nebula. So, I’ll go over here and navigate to the Crab Nebula.

It’s really kind of a spectacular thing. We can zoom in on it, we can draw out different images.

Here are images done in a different way. So, for example, that shows different wavelengths. Here’s the x-ray view showing right at the center there’s a big black hole. Here’s the infrared view.

So, these different views give us a sense of what’s gone on. Clearly there are stars forming here. It’s a very interesting thing. This idea of having the resolution and the information from the different telescopes is pretty amazing.

Now, so anybody can use this. In fact, you can hook it up to your telescope and anything you navigate to here you can tell your telescope to point to, or if you see something in your telescope, you can have it point here.

Anything I look up I can just right-click and go and get the information from out on the Web. So, here’s the information on the Crab Nebula, and if I go research, I can go up and see it from all the different Web sites that cover different items, I can get the information there.

But another thing we do is we make it easy to build a guided tour. So, if somebody is an expert or they just think they have an interesting way that they can guide you around, we have these different new tours that people can go to.

So, here is one that actually an expert made, somebody, an astronomer from Harvard, and let’s just listen quickly to how she takes this tool and has this —

(Video segment.)

BILL GATES: So, she was able to make this just by putting a record button on and talking while she was navigating around. We think we make it easy to contribute these things. So, a lot of them will go up on the Web.

We say it’s very easy to do this, and a good example of that was that we asked somebody young, a six-year old to do one, and here is his guided tour.

(Video segment.)

BILL GATES: All right, I’ll stop that, but the fact he was able to put that together just shows I think we’re going to get a lot of young astronomers educating each other.

So, there is a data set that’s complicated, that needs to be brought together, but with the magic of software, getting it all registered, showing it in different ways, it becomes explorable not just by the experts, although it’s valuable to them, but even by hobbyists who are interested.

So, let me talk a little bit about some of the partnerships we have here in Korea that I think will drive the second digital decade ahead at full speed.

We have a lot of partners here, a little over 50 percent of the IT industry are people who add value to the work we do, and they earn over $13 for every dollar of our sales.

We have an ecosystem project that’s to really emphasize the small software developers and help them not only succeed locally but to succeed globally. That’s of particular importance to us, because after all we were a small software company, and the strength of what we do is based on innovative new applications.

Another thing very important to us is software in education, making sure that either low price or donated software is available, but more importantly to make sure the training and approaches are there so that IT skills become part of the natural curriculum. We’ve been able to train over 15,000 teachers through Partners in Learning.

We’re always coming up with new ideas about how we can play at facilitating role. Tonight, I was very lucky to have dinner with President Lee, talk a lot about his vision. I was very pleased to hear that, and I was able to share with him two new investments we’re making. One is in an automotive IT innovation center, and that’s to nurture the Korean automotive IT companies, and really get software and visualization into that car experience. We’re working with a lot of key partners like Hyundai and Kia on that.

The second is a global games center, to take these innovative software developers, who have done amazing work that’s been quite popular, and really help them see how they can get that out onto the world market, different platforms, localization and things, to get the full benefit of that work.

So, looking ahead, this is a country that’s participating fully in the digital revolution. All the challenges, all the opportunities are very clear, that the commitment to education, the infrastructure, these things have laid the foundation.

I think some amazing things are going to happen here, and that’s why Microsoft is very committed to work with you and really make the digital lifestyle as fantastic for all of us and for everybody around the world as we possibly can.

Thank you. (Applause.)