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By GCN Staff

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Bill Gates on software's future

Bill Gates may be winding down from full-time duties at Microsoft, and his optimistic vision for the future of software may sound familiar, but it's clear he can still draw a crowd. More than 1,100 executives from the greater Northern Virginia technology community squeezed into a Capital Hilton ballroom in Washington this morning to hear Gates' perspective on what's next in software, technology, education and the political landscape.

'Software will change more things in the years ahead than it has in the decades past,' Gates said.

Gates, speaking at a Northern Virginia Technology Council breakfast, noted how the evolution of software and increasingly powerful microprocessors, along with the Internet, had impacted personal and business computing; and how it changed the very nature of photography and the music business, for instance.

'But I think the second digital decade will climax ... with even more profound changes,' he said, predicting legacy office PBX telephone systems, the television business, and most of all, the way people work together, will undergo dramatic transformations.

'Many things will move off the desktop and will be done in the (Internet) cloud,' he said. Massive amounts of information, such as Microsoft's Virtual Earth, make more sense being shared over the Internet than downloaded on desktop PCs, he said. The key to future software development, he added, is to create the architecture, using Extensible Markup Language, Web service protocols and management software that lets people manage data and applications in a hybrid environment which makes the best of both local and Internet computing worlds.

The biggest change coming, he said, is new ways of interacting with devices. While the use of keyboards or a mouse isn't likely to go away, new capabilities in speech recognition, for instance, may make mobile phones a much more powerful input device. Gates continues to see tablet computers as a device that will eventually be more cost-effective than buying books, and certainly more productive, for students.

Computers with vision, he said, that can react to movement and recognize objects, similar to the Surface technology Microsoft and partners are developing, will add a new dimension to the computing experience.

Gates also described how 3-D computing, robotics and collaboration tools (plugging the success of Microsoft's SharePoint product) are providing new platforms for productivity that will continue to transform the information technology business.

Finally, Gates shared his observations in visiting universities about how software is becoming an increasingly important component in the evolution of natural sciences such as biology and astronomy, opening up new areas for software development.

What troubles Gates, as he made clear yesterday in testimony before Congress, are laws that continue to force foreign students ' who now make up 60 percent of those pursuing computer science and other advance degrees ' to leave the United States on graduation, robbing the country of much-needed talent.

Posted by Wyatt Kash on Mar 13, 2008 at 9:39 AM


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