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Bill Gates on the Age of Software-Powered Communications

Published: October 16, 2007
By Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

If you’ve been in the work force for 20 years or more, you can remember a time when the pace of business—and life in general—was quite a bit slower than it is today. Back then we read newspapers and magazines and watched the network news to stay informed. Faxes were just becoming a common way to share written business information. A phone call might elicit a busy signal or no one would answer at all. In those days, no one expected to send documents to coworkers on the other side of the globe instantly, collaborate in real-time with colleagues in distant cities, or share photographs the very day they were taken.

These and similar advances have delivered remarkable results. The ability to access and share information instantly and communicate in ways that transcend the boundaries of time and distance has given rise to an era of unprecedented productivity and innovation that has created new economic opportunities for hundreds of millions of people around the world and paved the way for global economic growth that is unparalleled in human history.

But few people would argue that there is no room for improvement. Although we have once-unimaginable access to people and information, we struggle today to keep track of emails and phone calls across multiple inboxes, devices, and phone numbers; to remember a growing number of passwords; and to synchronize contacts, appointments, and data between desktop PCs and mobile devices. The fact is that the proliferation of communications options has become a burden that often makes it more difficult to reach people than it used to be, rather than easier.

In 2006, I wrote about how unified communications innovations were already beginning to transform the way we communicate at work. Today, I want to provide an update on the progress we’re making toward achieving our vision for unified communications. I also want to share my thoughts on how rapid advances in hardware, networks, and the software that powers them are laying the foundation for groundbreaking innovations in communications technology. These innovations will revolutionize the way we share information and experiences with the people who are important to us at work and at home, and help make it possible to put the power of digital technology in the hands of billions of people around the globe who have yet to reap the benefits of the knowledge economy.

Moving Beyond Disconnected Communications

A fundamental reason that communicating is still so complex is the fact that the way we communicate is still bound by devices. In the office, we use a work phone with one number. Then we ask people to call us back on a mobile device using another number when we are on the go, or reach us on our home phone with yet another number. And we have different identities and passwords for our work and home email accounts, and for instant messaging.

This will change in the very near future. As more and more of our communications and entertainment is transmitted over the Internet thanks to email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and the emergence of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), and other protocols, a new wave of software-driven innovations will eliminate the boundaries between the various modes of communications we use throughout the day. Soon, you’ll have a single identity that spans all of the ways people can reach you, and you’ll be able to move a conversation seamlessly between voice, text, and video and from one device to another as your location and information sharing needs change. You’ll also have more control over how you can be reached and by whom: when you are busy, the software on the device at hand will know whether you can be interrupted, based on what you are doing and who is trying to reach you.

The communications expectations that young people—and anybody else who has adopted the latest digital communications tools—bring to the workplace are already changing how we do business. To them, the desk phone is an anachronism that lacks the flexibility and range of capabilities that their mobile device can provide. A generation that grew up on text messaging is driving the rapid adoption of instant messaging as a standard business communications tool. Accustomed to forming ad hoc virtual communities, they want tools that facilitate the creation of virtual workgroups. Used to collecting and storing information online, they look for team Web sites, Wikis, and other digital ways to create and share information.

A Foundation for Future Innovation

It would be hard to overstate the magnitude of the changes that are coming. Standardized, software-powered communications technologies will be the catalyst for the convergence of voice, video, text, applications, information, and transactions, making it possible to create a seamless communications continuum that extends across people’s work and home lives. This will provide the foundation for new products, services, and capabilities that will change the world in profound and often unexpected ways.

This will happen not only in developed countries where access to digital technology is the norm, but also in emerging economies around the world. Currently, about 1 billion of us have a PC, just a fraction of the world’s 6 billion people. As we make technology more accessible and simpler to use—often in the form of affordable mobile devices—we can extend new social and economic opportunities to hundreds of millions of people who have never been able to participate in the global knowledge economy. And as more and more of the world’s people are empowered to use their ideas, talents, and hard work to the fullest, the results will be new innovations that make everyone’s lives richer, more productive, and more fulfilling.

Bill Gates

2 comments:

At October 18, 2007 at 4:16 PM Anonymous said...

Listed at RB:

M&A

According to Simon Collins, Chief Executive of KPMG Corporate Finance, merger and acquisition activity will pick up strongly next year. Analyst Sean Udall says this will be especially true in the tech arena. This brings up the thought of the potential acquisition of Microvision. With its foot in several top tech venues, and its small size, MVIS looks like a fruit ready to be plucked.

By whom?

Samsung is a company that is engaged in the cell phone and printer businesses. Microvision would make a nice fit for Samsung.

Epson? Epson and Microvision have collaborated on a variety of patents, particularly in the laser printer/scanner field.

Motorola? With a joint venture underway, MOT would seem a likely suitor.

However, one must also give strong consideration to Nokia.

Nokia favors innovation more than most companies, and it likes to have “keen control over its own manufacturing” according to one analyst. That means that if Nokia wants to successfully incorporate the big screen into their product, they need to purchase the company that makes the screen (the screen being a major component going forward). Nokia cannot purchase someone like TI, but they could well scoop up MVIS.

And what about Hewlett Packard? This tech mammoth doesn’t want to be left out in the rain, especially if the printer and endoscope elements pan out.

And finally, GE must be added to the list. MVIS’ CEO and a variety of managers hail from GE, and GE is expanding into new fields right now.

There are several potential buyers for MVIS and we may well see a grab for its assets and IP portfolio in the coming 18 months.

 
At October 21, 2007 at 8:44 AM KD said...

Ben,
Did you read this?
http://www.institutionalinvestor.com/Articles/1463231/Technology/Top-News/Corning-To-Launch-Mobile-Projector-Modules.aspx

I know corning is our partner, so are they making these modules on behalf of MVIS?
Thank you.

 

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