Bill Gates on the Future of the Cell Phone

Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation

If we think of a cell phone even four years from now, it will have many new capabilities. It will be able to show you a map of your current location, not just a map in the traditional sense, but even a picture of the buildings, show you the routes that you want to go on, virtual reality indicating the current traffic conditions, indicating if there is any of your colleagues who are in the area that you might want to be in touch with, a sense of how long it's going to take you to travel there.

The cell phone, you'll be able to complete transactions because it will be essentially a type of credit card using a new type of wireless approach called NFC that is capable of being built into these phones.

You'll be able to use the camera in some ways that you might not expect. If you have a receipt from a business lunch, you'd take a picture of that, it will be recognized by software and filed in the right expense software. If somebody hands you their business card, just take a photo of it, it will recognize the text and add that to your contact list. If you're in a foreign country and see a sign you'd like to read, just take the picture, the sign would be sent down to software on the Internet, translated and sent back so you can see what the sign is. Even something like purchasing, if you are considering buying a product and want to see the reviews or what the best price is, simply taking a photo of the bar code or the product itself will allow us to recognize it and guide you through that purchasing process, empowering you with extra information.

And so the cell phone will be a very key tool. The photos you take there will automatically show up on your PC, we'll recognize who's who in those photos, help you do that organization in a rich way, and even make them available to the relatives or colleagues that you'd like, with very simple rules.

When people want to call you, instead of thinking about a phone number and which phone number you have at work, at home, they'll simply call you, use your e-mail name to say they want to call you – and software, working on your behalf, will understand what device you have with you, where you are, whether the call from this person is important enough at that time to interrupt you, how much information should be passed to that person about your activity and your schedule, depending on how close your relationship with them is, and all done in a seamless way.

So literally in a year's time we'll look at phone numbers in the same way we look at things like records or film today and realize that those are not the simple way to use the technology.

Another big breakthrough is that the way that you receive video, which today is through broadcast, either over the air or over some cable infrastructure, will actually move entirely to the Internet. Why? Because it's able to reuse the same infrastructure that we have for Internet browsing, it's the same Internet infrastructure we'll use for voice calls as well. When you get video onto the Internet, the flexibility is quite phenomenal. For example, if you want to watch a local sports team that would never make it in today's broadcast channel lineup, as long as somebody had a digital camera, that local sports team is there. You can watch it whenever you want; in fact, if it's a game that's fairly slow, you can say to the software, summarize this in, say, 10 minutes, and you'll simply see the highlights, you won't have to sit through the less interesting parts, it's all based on your interests and your time. Likewise, when you watch the news, the sports you care about will be there in depth, the political issues, political areas of importance to you will be covered more thoroughly, and the things that are not of interest will simply be eliminated.