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Home » Hacking News » Bill Gates loves his 14.4 modem!

Bill Gates loves his 14.4 modem!

by Majik on September 6th, 2001 High-speed Internet access for computer users is too expensive and threatens to limit the adoption of some powerful new services that would be available in the next few years, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said.

In an interview Wednesday, Gates urged government policymakers to meet with representatives of the cable and telephone industries to determine what it would take to provide broadband services for $30 a month, instead of the monthly fee of about $50 that consumers pay for access via cable lines or enhanced telephone wiring. Although most of the nation's heavily populated areas have high-speed access available, such access is used by less than 15 percent of the country.

Gates expressed no optimism that the complex problem would be solved soon, even as Congress reviews legislative proposals purporting to address the issue. The telephone industry, for example, has been at war over various regulations that some companies say make it too difficult to recoup the costs of deploying broadband without charging high rates.

The broadband problem is particularly frustrating, Gates said, because it is the one piece of the physical infrastructure of computing that is limiting a "miracle environment" of new applications, thanks to ever-increasing computing speed, power and video-display capabilities.

In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of Microsoft's research division, which employs about 500 scientists, academics, psychologists and mathematicians, Gates outlined research efforts that he said would change the relationship between consumer and computer. Instead of offering basic service on demand, future machines would be able to make intelligent decisions about what users' productivity needs, he said.

Not all of what Microsoft is working on relies on broadband, and Gates said the industry can use some computer storage techniques to lessen the need for high-speed Internet access.

In the long run, Gates said, the "always on" nature of broadband makes expanded use of the computer more compelling.

"We can double the number of hours you spend with your computer, and the value you get from it," Gates predicted of the company's new initiatives.

In one of Gates's visions of the next 10 years of software development, devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants and computers would be interconnected and use various forms of artificial intelligence and sensory perception.

In this scenario, an e-mail or instant message received by a user would be analyzed for its importance based on factors such as who sent it, what the note says and the machine's knowledge of the user's schedule. The machine might decide the note is important enough to push the message out to the user's cell phone, but it might not prompt the phone to ring because the device knows the user is in close proximity to someone else, making the interruption unwelcome.

Real-time communication today "is a mess," Gates said. The efficiencies gained by using computers are being eroded by junk e-mail, messages that compete for attention without regard for utility, and myriad phone numbers, pass codes and e-mail addresses that need to be remembered.

Sorting through this confusion is a goal of Microsoft's new ".Net" strategy, which would use various forms of Microsoft's operating system and software standards to authenticate users and enable a network of smart devices to talk to one another.

As such a future unfolds, critics of the company and some government antitrust prosecutors worry that Microsoft's domination of the software market would only grow, despite court rulings that it illegally abused its monopoly power over computer operating systems. The case against Microsoft is pending before a federal judge who is to determine what penalties are to be imposed.

Gates declined to say whether, in the perfect version of his brave new world of connected devices, that one family of operating system would be necessary or optimal. He said that Microsoft's systems provide, and would continue to provide, for interoperability with systems and devices not made by Microsoft.

Gates also said that he does not expect the antitrust case to inhibit Microsoft's ability to innovate and be able to add functionality to its Windows operating system. "There's been no interference from the lawsuit in terms of Microsoft pushing its innovation forward," Gates said. "I doubt there will be that interference because the laws do and should encourage innovation. It would be a rather drastic change in the law to say that making the Windows product better, for example, that in any sense that that's not a good thing."

Although the company has expressed a desire to settle the case out of court, Gates said that various government actions against the company go back to the early 1990s "and there's no reason to expect it won't go on for a long time."

Microsoft also has been criticized for stifling innovation by battling against "open source" standards for software licensing, in which the underlying code for software is made widely available to other developers to improve or enhance.

Gates insisted that Microsoft is not against an open-source code or free software but that the company strongly opposes the General Public License standard that has been adopted by some companies. Gates said the standard prevents companies from gaining meaningful economic return on their investment in writing the code.

Gates also said he could not predict when the current technology recession might end, but he said that companies that resist the temptation to cut back on basic research during tough times stand a better chance of long-term success.

Microsoft plans to spend about $250 million this year on research alone and nearly $5 billion in combined research and product development. Only International Business Machines Corp. approaches such an effort on a similar level.

Gates said that at the height of the Internet bubble, he "put his money where his mouth is" and shorted several Internet stocks, in part because their businesses were based purely on grabbing market share and not on building underlying technology through research.

He said the federal government should do whatever it can to encourage more scientific and computer research at universities and companies.

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