Bill Gates: United Kingdom Launch of Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office System at the British Library

Transcript of Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
Lynne Brindley, CEO, The British Library
United Kingdom launch of Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office System
The British Library
London, England
January 30, 2007

GORDON FRAZER [General Manager, Microsoft United Kingdom]: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the British Library, and one of the most important and anticipated launches, the joint release of Windows Vista and the 2007 release of the Microsoft Office system. Today we are here to celebrate innovation: innovation of these new products that have been created with input from millions of customers and partners, as well as the innovation that we’ve seen here in the U.K. in the way these products are being used to open up a new world of possibilities for consumers.

But today is not just a Microsoft event; it’s an industry-wide event, an industry-wide celebration. Over the next 90 minutes or so, we have a very rich agenda. We have live demonstrations, some historic moments and some fantastic music. And that’s just in the first 15 minutes. So if there’s a single word that we think sums up today, that word is “wow.” We are looking at how Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office release will bring amazing and wonderful new experiences to your desktop and the way you use it. So this morning is mostly about putting the wow in your life, through entertainment, through communication, through personalization. We’ll see how these new products let us do much more, wherever we are, and do it in a more secure, much easier way, and allow you to have a lot more fun with it, wherever you want.

But before we get into all the detail on the products, etcetera, we have a very special wow in the person of our opening speaker this morning, who’s uniquely placed to give us an overview of the Windows Vista launch and the Office system. So I’m very glad to welcome on stage this morning the chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Mr. Bill Gates.

BILL GATES: Well, good morning. This is a special occasion. We’ve worked hard to build the new software platform, and we’re so excited to see what people are going to do with it.

In 1983, Microsoft introduced the very first version of Windows; that was 24 years ago, and at the time, PCs were not very powerful. There was a lot of question of whether graphics interface was something that made sense at all. People were skeptical about whether programmers would learn to be able to build applications that were very different, since the user could interact in a variety of new ways. And it took a long time for that to be well accepted.

Twelve years later, in 1995, we had a major milestone. And that was the last time that Microsoft introduced a version of Windows and Office together. That was the arrival of the 32-bit system, and “wow” features back then were things like long filenames – you didn’t have to have just eight characters to describe each of your files. That set off a new wave of computing, and really brought graphics interface into the mainstream. And it was amazing to see what people did with it. We have to remember that in 1995, when people thought about personal computers, they weren’t thinking about music or photos or telephony or learning or online multiplayer games. They were simply thinking about creating and printing documents and a little bit of e-mail. In fact, the fact that we put a browser into Windows 95 was not a major feature when the launch was done, but the standard TCP/IP stack and the browser that we and others did really became a foundation for something that’s exploded into the incredible Internet phenomenon.

Now, in Windows Vista, we have the foundation to take things to a whole new level. So instead of just saying that it’s about the Internet, now we talk about how it’s about the digital workstyle and the digital lifestyle. And the number of things that will be revolutionized on top of the Windows Vista platform is quite large. The way that people buy and sell products. The way we think of telephony – the end of the so-called dedicated PBX. The revolution of television, where you’re not limited to broadcast channels and just the popular items. And where even the shows themselves now will be personalized, where the news items that you care about will be longer. If it’s an educational show, you’ll have the opportunity to interact. Even the advertising will be targeted as well. We’ll be taking entertainment to a whole new level, where you can find the music that you’re interested in, or play games that are a whole new level of realism, and connecting up to other people around the world. It’s fair to say that even education, we believe, will be changed very dramatically. We’ve done special versions of Windows, like Media Center, which is about this TV and entertainment change. And the Tablet version, which is about letting people go to meetings and take their notes. But perhaps most interestingly, letting students have a device that allows them to work without paper textbooks, and yet interact and share in richer ways. So we’re just at the very beginning of that. We’ve just begun to see what we can do.

Windows and Office have some amazing features built into them. In the case of Windows, I’d particularly highlight things about ease of use. It’s much easier to find your information. And here we have things like search and Flip 3-D that let you navigate around.

There’s a lot about safety, because, as the Internet has become mainstream, avoiding phishing or malware, that’s very, very important. So we built those features into this system. We even have a big first in what we’ve done with parental controls. I know that when I told my son that now I could limit the hours that he uses the machine, his reaction was, “Geeze, is it going to be like this the rest of my life?” And I said, “Well, as long as you’re at home, probably will be.” For my daughter, who’s a bit older, I’m a bit more flexible. But the fact that I can see the activity log, and see what kind of website she’s going to, and pick what ratings of games I think are appropriate for her, makes me feel great, so I’ll know when I see those logs, what kind of things I might want to go and talk to her about. So safety has been a huge element of the investment we’ve made here.

It’s more connected. Setting up with Wi-Fi in an easy way, having the ability to do peer-to-peer meeting capability, lot of plumbing in here for Voice Over IP and very high-quality video-type things. And then finally a lot of things that have to do with better entertainment platforms: Photo Gallery, letting you mix together your clips, your photos and your movies, and letting you tag those so that the memories you have can easily be organized. MovieMaker includes high-definition editing and the ability to easily make a DVD out of the things you’ve done. So, a rich set of things built in to Vista itself.

With Office 2007, that’s also a major, major release. Things like embracing the XML standard that Microsoft got behind over 10 years ago, and it’s now become very mainstream. That’s a big deal. The way we redefine collaboration, through SharePoint, is a very big deal. The new user interface we call the Ribbon actually takes a number of features that have been in Office and brings them to the surface so they’re very easy to use. And that visual, immediate interface is now letting us give people more power, and letting people create what we call 21st-century documents. It only takes a few hours before they get used to that new way of presenting things, so that’s a bet that we made in innovation that’s clearly paid off.

We have a lot of people to thank, people who’ve helped us pull these releases together. Obviously, the people who’ve worked on it, but also the beta testers – over 5 million people have used these products. It was great of them to download them, let us know what they liked, what they didn’t, and help us make sure these were the highest-quality products we ever released.

We had a very special program we started two years ago that was focused on families. So we picked 50 families in seven countries around the world and sat down and talked to them about how they used computing and what would be easy for them, and there were over 800 changes and fixes that were made specifically because of the families that we had there.

So today is a big day. And it’s really the start of something different. What I’d like to highlight in particular is that the strength of Windows has always been the ecosystem around it – much as we love what’s been built into Windows, it’s been the incredible hardware partners, the solution partners, the software partners. The Windows environment has always had 10 times as many applications as any other environment. And the real vision that we had of empowering an entire software industry – giving them the great tools, the information, and working with them, and working together to create an environment that was very high volume, but could allow software to be sold at relatively low prices – that’s the magic of what we’ve got here. And every time we move the platform up to a new level, we’re amazed at what the software industry goes and does with it. So we’re going to see a particular example of that in my presentation today, but I now there’s literally thousands of such examples around the world. Some of them are really neat and simple things, like gadgets. Here in the United Kingdom we’ve had Universal Music build a gadget for bands that you like, or IMG build some that are focused on football scores. There’s another one, I understand, that has something to do with gambling – that gadget we probably can’t use in the United States, but I’m sure it will be very popular here.

So across the whole range of things you can imagine we’re unleashing people’s creativity, and we’re excited about what can happen.

At this point, I’d like to say how thankful we are to the British Library for letting us be here at this great venue. It’s also very fitting that we’re here because of the example we want to give about some new things, some empowerment that can come out of today’s announcement. It’s something that kind of mixes my love of education and learning with the idea of Windows Vista as a great new platform. And to help me share this with you, I’d like to invite Lynne Brindley, the CEO of the British Library, to come on up to the stage.

LYNNE BRINDLEY: Thank you, Bill. It’s really a great pleasure to welcome you back here to the British Library, and particularly on such a great occasion as today. On behalf of the Library, I’d like also to extend a really warm welcome to all of you here in the audience.

Now here at the British Library we’re continually seeking new audiences for our collections and our services, as well as new partners to help us deliver all these new things. Now you probably didn’t know when you walked across the piazza, but under your feet are eight basements, about 150 million items at the British Library, every format, from oracle bones, research journals, maps, patents, manuscripts, and a host of increasingly digital formats. I’m not boasting, but I think we are probably one of the greatest libraries in the world. But our challenge has always been to make the collections accessible to as many people as possible. It’s kind of one thing to care about the information, quite another to develop it into a resource that can be accessed and searched by users wherever they are in the world. When we start to talk about the influence of access, Bill, it seems to me that probably the British Library and Microsoft have got quite a lot in common. What do you think?

BILL GATES: Yes, our vision about empowerment has included the idea of people getting at the information that they care about. In fact, one of our great slogans has always been “information at your fingertips.” And for information that’s being created today, with tools like Microsoft Office, it’s in digital form to begin with. But we have a big challenge, with the history of all the material, letting people…how do you scan that, how do you organize that, what are the standards, how do you manage the content, at all levels, letting people get to the things they want. So this is a very tough software challenge.

LYNNE BRINDLEY: Absolutely. For us, as the digital environment continues to evolve, what we’re trying to do is to redefine what is a great library in the 21st century. Clearly, a central part of that role is offering access and interpretation of our most precious treasures. And we’ve got treasures like the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels; we have cultural landmarks like Shakespeare’s First Folio, Dickens, Austen; and religious treasures like the Golden Haggadah, and wonderful Korans in our collection. I could go on and on; you can see I’m very proud of all this. But as well as the Treasures Gallery, which is here at St. Pancras – it’s free, it’s open to everybody – what we’re really passionate about is the power of digital to allow everybody in the world to access this material.

Now since about 1997, the British Library has been putting a selection of our precious manuscripts online. We’ve developed with partners Armadillo Systems an application appropriately known as Turning the Pages. And we’ve created a really engaging and enjoyable booklike experience which you can view in your Web browser. The creation of the Turning the Pages text though is frankly quite a long and expensive process. But what is really going to happen, and why we’re really excited, is that’s going to change quite dramatically – thanks to Windows Vista. I’m delighted to ask Bill to explain what it is about Vista that transforms the Turning the Pages experience.

BILL GATES: Great. Well, in Vista, we had a real opportunity to take the graphics foundation and make it dramatically more powerful. The magic of Moore’s Law meant that these graphics chips were far more capable, and we wanted to pass that through. And so we built in a thing called the Windows Presentation Foundation, so you can call these graphics capabilities at a much higher level, and they’d perform far, far better. This kind of graphics, some of it was actually invented for the gamers, who are very, very demanding. But it’s wonderful that we can actually take that graphics and use it for business charts or things like the Turning the Pages application.

The goal here is to really achieve two things: to make the experience rich, and feel very real on any kind of PC, and making that fast requires this new kind of plumbing. So you don’t have to see the intermediate states when it’s very slow. And there’s another way of looking at this, which is making it easy to scan, so that you don’t have to do much special work. In fact, just about any kind of normal scan can be done, and once we understand what type is material is involved we can create a sort of realistic animation, and, as you see that, it looks like it would with the actual product itself. So Windows Vista actually enables all those new things, the quick rendering and reducing the laborious work that had to be done before.

LYNNE BRINDLEY: For us, the key thing is the whole simplification of the whole digitization process, it’s a really huge bonus, because putting a book on Turning the Pages before used to take us weeks of quite specialist input. And now, what we can do is do it in a few hours once we’ve got the page scans. So what it means for the British Library is that we can really accelerate our plans to offer digital access, and at the same time create a much richer experience for everybody looking at our manuscripts – as you’re going to see for yourselves when the system for Turning the Pages is demonstrated. But the Vista-enabled version, we call it Turning the Pages 2.0 – quite appropriately, I think – is a major step forward for the British Library. And I hope you’ll see it’s got a really good “wow” factor for us as well. It’s clearly got the potential though to, frankly, transform the way people access and research and interact with the nation’s cultural and historic treasures.

Now, in order to celebrate this moment in a fitting way, we approached Bill with a special request that only he could grant us. We wanted his help to really help us make history. Now Bill, are you going to tell us about this wonderful treasure that you own?

BILL GATES: Yeah, I feel very lucky that I own a notebook. In fact, I remember going home one night and telling my wife Melinda that I was going to buy a notebook; she didn’t think that was a very big deal. I said, no, this is a pretty special notebook, this is the Codex Leicester, one of the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. And I personally have always been amazed by him because he personally worked out science on his own, and he understood things that no other scientist of that time did. And his work is amazing. He would work by drawing things and writing down his ideas. So he built these notebooks about how light worked, how water worked, how weapons would work. Of course he designed all sorts of flying machines, like helicopters, way before you could actually build something like that. So every one of these notebooks are amazing documents – they’re kind of his rough-draft notes of texts that he eventually wanted to put together.

LYNNE BRINDLEY: So, as Bill says, he holds the Codex Leicester in his private collection – although I know you let it travel regularly around the world. Now, the British Library holds another set of Leonardo’s papers; it’s called the Codex Arundel, and we have that in our collection for the nation. So, in order to do something with a wow factor, we decided to celebrate this collaboration, that the very first use of our Turning the Pages 2.0 should be the electronic reunification of these documents – both of these notebooks for the very first time in 500 years. So, for six months from today, academics, researchers, members of the public, will be able to go to our website, the British Library website,, and directly compare the pages of the two notebooks – along with expert commentary and interpretation from the world’s leading authorities on Leonardo. I’m really quite excited about this, and what it means for the library – not just the British Library, but all libraries, and those who use them. So I hope I share that feeling with you.

BILL GATES: Well, it’s a very special combination. First, seeing the British Library using Windows Vista in this innovative way to bring treasures, including mine, to the reach of a new audience who can view and interact with them. Second, you know it’s a great day for people who really want to study Leonardo da Vinci, and get access to the materials in this very direct way. He intended to take and organize these things, and really come up with an all organized…but he never got a chance to do that. Of course, these works were kind of scattered throughout Europe, so bringing them back together is very helpful.

And so using this software to bring these books back together online, I think we can fulfill his wishes, and, hopefully, inspire a number of students to think about science as something they can understand and contribute to.

LYNNE BRINDLEY: I think the moment is pretty nearly here. Microsoft and the British Library are finally bringing the da Vinci Notebooks together again.


Well, I think that’s a fantastic moment, and clearly made possible [by] Bill, thank you very much for your generosity and also for the power of this technology. So thank you for coming today, thank you for helping us, and being here to mark this great occasion for us.

BILL GATES: Thank you.