Five years ago, I was working for a Belgian company that published the only weekly IT magazine in the country, Data News. I was not a reporter, but in charge of its online media products. When it was announced that Microsoft founder Bill Gates would be coming to Brussels to, for the first time, pitch Windows Vista to enterprise customers and partners at the MS Business Innovation Event, I jumped on the opportunity to convince the editor of the magazine to arrange for a camera to be placed in the conference hall so we could record his talk.
Believe it or not, but I remember actually having to argue a bit to make it happen. But I ultimately got my way, and we taped what I believe is the only footage of Gates speaking at that event. We put it up on YouTube – about a month after they were acquired by Google, come to think of it.
Anyway, I haven’t watched the video since 2006, but I kept on getting emails notifying me of comments on it on an almost-daily basis for years (to this day). There are now close to 1,900 comments on the YouTube video, mostly saying how boring Gates is – particularly in comparison to Steve Jobs’ presentation skills – and how big a turd Windows, and especially Windows Vista, really is.
Judge for yourselves, but I urge you to listen to what the man says, too.
A while ago, I decided to watch the video again myself, and I was struck by some of the things Gates talked about in that speech, so I figured I should share it on TechCrunch some day. I finally got around to it. Jump to 1:13 if your time this weekend is overly precious to you – I’ve transcribed some of things Gates said from that point on below:
The form of the computer is changing as well. It’s getting smaller, it’s getting more pervasive. If we think about the machine on our desk, it’s becoming a flat-panel device with a very large screen area. In fact, bigger and bigger, so that we can look at and deal with more information.
The portable machine is getting thinner, lighter and smaller, and in fact there’ll be a tablet form factor that you can carry around literally like a tablet of paper. And it’s comfortable enough to read off of that screen as you hold it in your hands; that it’s as good as having a magazine, a newspaper … the traditional way of reading.
If we think about using that device for a student, as it comes down over the next five years. To be only a few hundred dollars, and they’ll be able to use that instead of buying textbooks, they’ll get digital curriculum that’s superior in every way. That can be personalized, that can have video, can have interaction. The wireless Internet showing up on that tablet gives that student a chance to navigate the world of information in a very rich way.
If we think about the device in our pocket, obviously it started off as a pure-voice device. But now, with camera-like capability, starting to show maps, bringing us our mail, our schedule, becoming our digital wallet, storing all of our media, music and even videos that we want to take around. That device is getting amazingly powerful. In fact, it has the power that even a PC only had a few years ago.
I should note that I’m well aware tablet computers had been on the radar for many, many years even back in 2006, and some companies – including Microsoft and Apple – had been trying to make them a reality and a commercial success, so I wouldn’t venture as far as to say Bill Gates was laying out a vision of a future that existed only in his mind. I know he didn’t really say anything spectacular.
What is amazing to me is that Gates pretty much predicted the iPad back in November 2006, and that it took until April 2010 for the first truly commercially successful tablet to hit the market, by its rival Apple no less. The Windows 8 tablets ‘wave’ will be coming in the first half of 2012.
Enjoy the video:
(Picture courtesy of World Economic Forum on Flickr / Photo by Andy Mettler)