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Bill Gates's The Road Ahead, 15 Years Later 280

Posted by kdawson
from the answer-unclear-try-again dept.
smooth wombat writes "It's been 15 years since Bill Gates wrote his book The Road Ahead, in which he talks about how technology would shape the future. In the intervening years, technology has changed many aspects of our lives for better and worse. So how did Bill do on his predictions? The Atlantic takes a look at the hits and misses of some of his prognostications. Overall, it appears Bill let optimism guide his thoughts, except when it came to the Internet — his biggest miss of all."
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Bill Gates's The Road Ahead, 15 Years Later

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  • by ls671 (1122017) * on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:10PM (#32295244) Homepage

    I feel like Microsoft has never developed a key software innovation and is not that good at predictions. I guess a lot of people feel the same as me. They are excellent at marketing their products and at keeping a healthy business although.

    I searched Google with the terms "Microsoft innovation" and "Microsoft best innovation" to try to prove myself wrong but I did not find anything. Try it for yourself.

    The best innovation from Microsoft I could think of is DOS, but it was originally written to IBM specs then Microsoft recycled it into MS-DOS which is more a profiting after the fact attitude.

    So here we go slashdotters: What is the best innovation Microsoft has brought to us and/or which Microsoft prophecy turned out to be the best prediction ?

    http://www.dwheeler.com/innovation/microsoft.html [dwheeler.com]

    • by Pop69 (700500) <billy AT benarty DOT co DOT uk> on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:17PM (#32295344) Homepage
      See, the problem is you're searching on Google.

      Try Bing, I'm sure it will be full of wonderful Microsoft innovations
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Arancaytar (966377)

        Indeed, I searched Google for "Microsoft innovation" and it asked me:

        "Did you mean 'Microsoft immolation'?"

    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:18PM (#32295352) Homepage Journal

      DOS is not a great innovation. DOS, like most Microsoft products, is just a rework of someone's earlier innovation. If there is innovation there it's in how they adapted well established systems (like CP/M and, even earlier, BASIC) from Mainframe and Mini computers to much less powerful PCs and home computers. Bill Gates is good at that, but he by no means has been an inventor. At best he's dumbed down many of the best computer innovations so he can get them through the front door of offices and homes.

      • DOS was originally just a bought CP/M clone called Quick and Dirty OS.

        This has become Microsofts SOP - steal borrow or buy someone elses innovations and then sell it too the masses. Microsoft is good at selling but not as good as creating good technical products.

    • by c++0xFF (1758032) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:26PM (#32295444)

      What is the best innovation Microsoft has brought to us?

      The BSOD, of course. Bob and Clippy are tied for 2nd place.

    • Well, Clippy of course! How else would people ever have figured out how to write a letter?
    • Quote: Microsoft purchased 86-DOS, allegedly for $50,000. [wikipedia.org] It was an improvement of the CP/M operating system. [wikipedia.org]
    • I feel like Microsoft has never developed a key software innovation

      What about DDE/COM?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ls671 (1122017) *

        "Component Object Model (COM) is a binary-interface standard for software componentry introduced by Microsoft in 1993."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Component_Object_Model [wikipedia.org]

        "The idea of RPC (Remote Procedure Call) goes back at least as far as 1976"

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_procedure_call [wikipedia.org]

        • 'Remote procedure call (RPC) is an Inter-process communication technology that allows a computer program to cause a subroutine or procedure to execute in another address space (commonly on another computer on a shared network) without the programmer explicitly coding the details for this remote interaction'
          'The primary function of DDE is to allow Windows applications to share data.'
    • I feel like Microsoft has never developed a key software innovation and is not that good at predictions. I guess a lot of people feel the same as me. They are excellent at marketing their products and at keeping a healthy business although.

      Until a few years ago, Microsoft was best understood as a stock pyramid scheme rather than a software company.

    • Direct X (Score:4, Informative)

      by FileNotFound (85933) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:36PM (#32295598) Homepage Journal

      The framework made writing PC games relatively easy. Direct 3D did away with propriety 3D drivers. Direct Sound did the same for sound cards.

      Without Direct X gaming on the PC would not mean "Windows Games".

      Maybe that's not a good thing, but DirectX has had more effect on the PC Games industry than any other product.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Artifakt (700173)

      Microsoft sort of faltered on some of its arguably best ideas. They implemented dynamic linking libraries, for example, and then couldn't or didn't get all the 3rd party developers to put the DLL's in the same place (Windows/system). They added the System32 subdirectory to keep 32 bit and 16 bit DLLs separate, and couldn't get cooperation on that either. Notice that Microsoft could have not issued its Windows certified or compatible stickers to anyone who didn't play along. They decided they would rather be

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kilrah_il (1692978)

      MS Bob!

    • by seven of five (578993) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:43PM (#32295728) Homepage
      The best innovation from Microsoft I could think of is DOS, but it was originally written to IBM specs then Microsoft recycled it into MS-DOS which is more a profiting after the fact attitude.

      errr.... Microsoft didn't develop DOS either. They bought it. [wikipedia.org]
    • by Wiarumas (919682)
      Microsoft was never good at innovation - they were good at mimicking their competitors and creating a decent, competing product, and deploying them will with good marketing... which is a completely legitimate strategy in my opinion since their products aren't THAT bad. The Windows OS, Word/Office, MSN Messenger, X-Box, Zune, Live Search, etc. See a common trend? They are all rehashed versions of, in many cases, successful products.
    • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:03PM (#32296056) Homepage

      So here we go slashdotters: What is the best innovation Microsoft has brought to us...

      The "brought to us" part is the hard part. Plenty of important innovation has happened at Microsoft, but they aren't that good at turning it into products.

      For example, Microsoft researchers developed a kind of help system that observed what a user did, and learned their use patterns, and was able to recognize when they were having trouble with something and offer suggestions. It worked very well, mostly only interrupting with suggestions when you were in genuine need of help.

      When this moved from the lab to the product people, the marketing people loved it, but complained that it didn't show up enough. They wanted to advertise this great feature, but if the typical user only actually saw it do something once a week or so, that would suck (from the salesman's point of view). So marketing forced the people implementing to turn the thresholds way down, and make it pop up a lot, with often inane suggestions. And that's how Clippy went from being perhaps the most sophisticated automated assistant in the world when it was in the lab, to perhaps the most annoying automated pest in the world when it ended up in products.

      Another good example is statistical spam filtering. Microsoft internally had one of the earliest, and best, spam handling systems. They also were the first (in a partnership with outside researchers at, I think, Stanford) the first to publish academic papers on Bayesian filtering. But it was others who picked up on this and wrote articles for the non-academic crowd that made outside programmers aware of these techniques, and so few realize Microsoft was one of the pioneers here.

      Their spam filtering actually went far beyond just filtering for spam. At one time they had a system internally that could look at your incoming mail, analyze it, figure out what it was about, and rank the importance of it. This was tied in with other systems, such as the web cam on your computer and the microphone on your computer. The web cam could watch you, and the microphone listen to what was going on in your office. If it say and heard that you were meeting with others, it could see who they were, and hear what you are talking about, analyze that and figure out its importance, and decide if the mail you just received can wait or is important enough to interrupt you.

      Aside from one or two articles in the press that mentioned this system as part of stories profiling research at MS, I've not heard anything about it since. It apparently never made it to any kind of product development stage. Someday, someone else will do it all the way through to product (Google's a good candidate), and no one will remember that Microsoft had it first.

    • by toadlife (301863)

      ...the "Microsoft has never innovated" crowd is that they don't know what the word innovation means.

      Hint: Innovation is not a synonym for invention.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Microsoft didn't write DOS. Seattle Computer Products wrote DOS and Microsoft bought the company so they could use it in their IBM contract.
      I believe Visual Studio is the only major product that Microsoft has developed in house.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      I feel like Microsoft has never developed a key software innovation and is not that good at predictions.

      Personally I'm amazed he actually got some hits. I've always seen Bill Gates as such an anti-visionary that I expected all his predictions to be rubbish or ridiculously obvious.

  • To edit what you wrote to correct your predictions is another. From the article (and my memory):

    Gates's notion that the Internet would play a supporting role in the information highway of the future, rather than being the highway itself, was out-of-date the day The Road Ahead was published. Even Gates realized it. Shortly before his book hit the stores, Gates reorganized Microsoft to focus more on the Internet, and he made major revisions to a second edition of The Road Ahead, adding material that highlighted the significance of the Internet.

    Never admitting fault or that you were wrong is one of the hallmarks of a successful businessman. You never have to acknowledge a weakness, you never have to assume responsibility, your image never falters and when your mistakes are too great, you can bail like a rat on a sinking ship instead of playing the part of the captain. It's this draconian mentality that will ensure your less intelligent employees view you as an immortal deity and flawless leader while the smarter employees exit your ship the next time it docks.

    • You forgot, "never show empathy." And now we have a complete diagnosis: sociopath. Only sociopaths have what it takes to succeed in modern business, everyone else is just too weak. We used to shun or kill monsters, now we elevate them to the status of Gods.

      • Clever monsters have always been followed and adored. Foolish monsters are still often shunned and killed. The change you describe hasn't happened.

      • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:52PM (#32295876)

        You're right. I remember reading a study in a psychology class about how sociopathic CEOs tended to be. If not a sociopath, they tend to be obsessive compulsive. Think about it: most people, if paid as much as a Fortune 500 CEO, would retire after one year. Being a CEO is extremely stressful and most will never utilize the vast amounts of wealth they acquire. For them, business is a game that they just can't put down.

        I think Microsoft with Gates/Balmer are a prime example of this. Their willingness to sink more resources into a project than it will profit for the sake of market-share demonstrates that they view business as a game of Monopoly. Look at the XBox, Bing, and IE. Gates cares more about his legacy than anything else. He cares more about having credit for modern technological achievements than actually contributing to society. Just look at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. I know it's taboo to criticize, but as the Priest in A Clockwork Orange said, "What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness?" Intentions and motivations matter, and Gates has demonstrated time after time that he is motivated by selfishness and arrogance. If he cared about technological progress he wouldn't try to beat the competition to the market with half-assed products, stagnate progress once he has a lock on a market, and make an enemy of open source. If he cared about helping people then he wouldn't insist on being given credit for it with interviews every time his foundation spends a few cents. He's a sociopath.

        • You're right. I remember reading a study in a psychology class about how sociopathic CEOs tended to be. If not a sociopath, they tend to be obsessive compulsive. Think about it: most people, if paid as much as a Fortune 500 CEO, would retire after one year. Being a CEO is extremely stressful and most will never utilize the vast amounts of wealth they acquire. For them, business is a game that they just can't put down.

          I would put it this way: a sensible person doesn't really want that much power, because (to steal from Stan Lee) with great power comes great responsibility. Having lots of responsibility is extremely unpleasant; it's impossible to be sure that you're doing everything you can, and people will inevitably get hurt. There are reasons to take on responsibility, such as financial reward, satisfying some compulsion to achieve something, or satisfying a perceived obligation. However, it's still unpleasant, and a sensible person won't seek to continue to hold responsibility for longer than is needed. Therefore, that sensible person also won't seek extreme amounts of power.

          The exception are people who don't really care about fulfilling their responsibilities. If you don't care about whether you're doing everything you can, and if you don't care about other people getting hurt, then having responsibility isn't unpleasant. If you don't care about the ramifications of your actions and you are entirely self-serving, then the only thing that will matter is the accrual of additional power.

          So that's my quick and dirty explanation of why psychopaths keep getting themselves into positions of power: they're the ones who really want it. The only solution is to keep power dilute.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I've always maintained that most CEO's and politicians are just sociopaths who are very skilled at hiding it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "To edit what you wrote to correct your predictions" for a new edition of a book is not unethical as you imply, it is the usual manner in which one adds value to a book to make the new edition more useful. Some Slashdotters might remember what we used to refer to as "textbooks" that we used in conjunction with classroom instruction. Textbooks used to be revised frequently, primarily so the textbook publishers could sell more books, but the normal method of enticing people to buy the revised version was to

  • Email... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Knara (9377) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:15PM (#32295318)

    Does anyone really work for an organization that 1) has people who regularly don't get emails and 2) is encouraging people to use email less?

    Seems like workflow problems, not email problems.

    • by dskzero (960168)
      Pretty much. That article is terribly biased.

      But then again, this IS slashdot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      Yes, I currently work at such a place. One old fart hates Email and so no-one ever sends him any. The rest of us however, are normal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'll second that. In fact, I have worked in a place which had precisely the effect he's talking about -- we had a few short meetings, and a lot of discussions via email, version control logs, etc.

      The miss was "shared screens" -- no idea what he's talking about.

  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:20PM (#32295384) Homepage

    It's easy to make fun of Bill for his predictions, but I'll admit my own haven't worked out so great either. Here from 1995:

    - By 2010, as many as 1 out of every 25 people will have an email account, causing massive slowdown of the FidoNet.
    - I'll never be that old guy who gets his video-game ass handed to him by 13 year olds.
    - Register sex.com? Nah, that'd be a waste of $100.
    - Being a programmer will be a totally safe field -- it's not like people in India will suddenly all get computers and start coding.

    Ouch.

    • Ouch.

      I don't see anything about flying cars.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        I don't see anything about flying cars.

        Moller's latest prototype broke its tether, pitched sideways, and came through his window, killing him while at the same instant dropping a bolt on the mouse, pressing Submit, before he could bring that up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Being a programmer will be a totally safe field -- it's not like people in India will suddenly all get computers and start coding.

      Not totally safe, but companies are starting to figure out that you get what you pay for, and demand is steadily increasing, particularly for people with actual comp sci degrees.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Ah FidoNet...what fond memories. And I too was once forever young. Unfortunately, forever didn't last nearly as long as I expected.
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:25PM (#32295434) Homepage

    ...predicting the future of technology is always a difficult thing to do. Just 30 years ago, the current state of the Internet was almost unfathomable. Think about it: in just 30 years, we've gone from cell phones being prohibitively expensive and the size of briefcases, to cell phones that fit in your pocket and allow you to access the whole of human knowledge in a matter of seconds. In 50 years, we've gone from computers being the size of rooms, to the iPhone, or Android phones.

    My cell phone, an HTC Ozone, is more powerful than my computer from the late 90's. Aside from the video card, my cell phone is technically powerful enough to run Deus Ex...and my cell phone is far from the best one on the market.

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:47PM (#32295802) Journal

      Actually, many phones (not sure about yours) probably have a video card that's more than good enough to run Deus Ex. It's the CPU architecture that'd most likely be a problem.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Think about it: in just 30 years, we've gone from cell phones being prohibitively expensive and the size of briefcases, to cell phones that fit in your pocket and allow you to access the whole of human knowledge in a matter of seconds.

      Having read The Road Ahead back in '95, the main thing I remember was Gates' prediction about pocket computers, which suddenly seems much more accurate than it did 3 years ago when smartphones were struggling to catch on. Consistent with Gates' blindside for the Internet, h

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:25PM (#32295438)
    The book is as irrelevant as Bill Gates and I suspect Bill understood and that is why he left for something he was fully qualified to do: give away money.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:40PM (#32295646)

      that is why he left for something he was fully qualified to do: give away money.

      I liked the Jon Stewart comment after the police raid over the lost iPhone:

      [in confused voice, after reminding us of the Apple "1984" commercial:] 'Apple is busting down doors in Palo Alto and Bill Gates is killing mosquitoes in Africa.'

  • by u19925 (613350) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:28PM (#32295468)
    "The obvious mathematical breakthrough would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers." (p.265)
  • face to face (Score:5, Insightful)

    by citylivin (1250770) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:28PM (#32295474)

    "But friendships formed online don't regularly lead to face-to-face meetings."

    The author of this retrospective was dead wrong. I know plenty of people who chat on facebook and then meetup in real life. Its generally for dating purposes. Not to mention craigslist, and the multitude of online games, fourms and other avenues to connect your real life to the internet. Infact, I think gates was more prescient than the author is giving him credit for. If you had asked me 15 years ago, I would have said that was unlikely as everyone uses pseudonames and tries hard to hide their real selves.

    This is clearly no longer the case, so I think gates was correct that the "superhighway" has led to more face to face interactions.

  • I seem to remember a cool CD / DVD that had a walkthrough of his house.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:31PM (#32295528) Homepage

    I disagree with the networking assessment. Even the fastest "home" wireless is still significantly slower than consumer wired ethernet. Higher end wired networking is faster still. Also, while wireless might seem at least barely adequate at home, it can quickly become unusable outside the home. 3G coverage is spotty and often completely unusable. Wireless still has a ways to go. Although of course there are always some that push technology and those that don't.

    Although the main problem with wireless is security, not speed.

    • 3G coverage is spotty and often completely unusable.

      Outside the US in countries that actually built out decent 3G networks, coverage is pretty good and usable. Here in New Zealand we have two networks providing 3G coverage to 97% of the population. All the cities have near-complete 3G coverage. I understand the situation is similar in many other Western countries (especially in Europe and Australia) with the obvious exception of the US. In some areas 3G wireless is actually faster than ADSL wired.

  • So what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546)

    Bill Gates missed on a few points. So what? What am I supposed to infer from this?

    This book was a snapshot of Bill Gates's thoughts at that particular moment in time. Beyond being mildly interesting it's completely irrelevant. His expectations were based on what he was seeing around him. His predictions were based on the state of technology at the time and colored by his own work. Clearly has ideas have evolved in the intervening years. Microsoft likely would have been out of business by now if he hadn't ch

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jedidiah (1196) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:44PM (#32295764) Homepage

      No. When that book was written, it was already obvious that the Internet was going to kill off proprietary services like Prodigy and AOL. By the time that the net came along those services were OLD. They were an OLD model. They were long overdue for a disruption. Any technophile worth his salt should have seen this. More likely, Gates saw his interest lying in replacing AOL and wanted to push that idea whether he thought it was likely or not.

      He simply wanted to try and push the world into his particular Walled Garden.

      What a businessman tells you can't be taken at face value.

      Ultimately he's going to want to sell you something.

      • He simply wanted to try and push the world into his particular Walled Garden.

        - and again, he failed in a mediocre way where the greatest Jobs has succeeded.

  • Ballmer (Score:4, Funny)

    by sckirklan (1412015) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:44PM (#32295750) Journal
    The Steve Ballmer developer jam. Although not foretold in Gates' book.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      >> "A window will be shattered in conference room #201, and a chair will be noticed missing." (p. 142)

            -dZ.

  • by ch-chuck (9622) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:46PM (#32295788) Homepage

    He could easily have predicted, "In the future, I'll still be filthy rich" - not one to be careless with money.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Friday May 21, 2010 @12:49PM (#32295830) Journal

    Another book from 15 years ago [berkeley.edu] that biffed it.

  • by dbuttric (9027) <dbuttrickNO@SPAMgeekforce.com> on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:06PM (#32296104) Homepage

    I was in the AI lab at MIT, testing my wits against LISP. In walks Marvin Minsky.

    I asked him if he could give me a tip or two about atoms.

    His response to me was: "Well, why dont you wait until the computer speaks your language... Then program it in that?"

    That was alot longer ago than 15 years...

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Even when people speak your language, making them precisely do what you want them to do is difficult (and possibly counterproductive if they're better than you in that field).

      You no longer program them, you influence them to hopefully do something similar to what you think you want :).

      Anyway, the AI people don't appear to know what they are doing (at least in terms of creating real AIs). Maybe someday they'll come up with a working sentient AI, and still not know what they are doing or how they actually ach
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh (216268)

      The problem is that there's really no way to program a computer in a human language and get it to work properly. It's impossible. Human language simply isn't precise enough. Two humans speaking the same language, who've known each other for years, can't even tell each other something without there being a misunderstanding of some kind. It happens with my wife and myself all the time; she says something, I think she means one thing, she meant another, argument ensues...

      That's why we have languages for co

  • by digiplant (581943) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:11PM (#32296184)

    1) Email - Seems to me that his statement is a "hit". Email does alleviate the need for as many meetings and does allow my collegues and I to show up more informed. You really have to question the author's judgement if he doesn't think this was the biggest "hit" of all. Email has definitely changed the way I collaborate. This author wants us to believe that he never reviews documents that were emailed to him before a meeting?

    2) Social Networking - Again, what planet does this person live on? Not the planet earth where facebook gets more daily hits than google? This is so ridiculous he would call this a miss in any way. I definitely interact with people I would've otherwise lost contact with daily. I've also met several people online and then in real life.

    3) Online Shopping - Here the author is relying too much on Gates's exact words, and not the spirit of his statement. The internet has definitely revolutionized online shopping. Every book I buy, I first explore inside on amazon. When I was looking for cars, I find many online videos about it. When I rent a hotel, I can take a 360 view tour to make sure it is as swank as I would like it to be.

    4) The Internet and The Web - Again, I just don't see how Gates was really wrong here. The Internet is just part of the "information superhighway", albeit a large piece. I connect with private market data feeds from all over the world at work. I watch tv on my sprint cell phone. I use gps signal from satellites. I send text messages on my phone. I watch tv on my cable tv system. I play games against my friends over Xbox Live. I have a private network at home that I share video and music on. I buy quicken at best buy to manage my finances which also connects to my bank accounts. I also of course browse the web and send email.

    I could probably go on. The point is that this article either biased or wrong, maybe both.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      I disagree a little with you, but I don't quite agree with the author either. All in all, I wouldn't say that Gates was completely wrong, but it seems like he was kind of clueless and he missed the point. Like yes, he understood that online shopping will be important *somehow*, but he thought vendors would show you video of the products before you bought them. However, that's not what makes online shopping interesting at all; the process of buying things online is essentially not very different from buyi

  • Just 15 years?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RealityProphet (625675) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:28PM (#32296418)
    pffft...AT&T (of all companies) nailed the future in 1993! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZb0avfQme8 [youtube.com]
  • "The obvious mathematical breakthrough [to break modern encryption] would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers."
    -- Bill Gates, in "The Road Ahead," p. 265

    Uh huh.
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:42PM (#32296646)

    It's always tempting to bash Microsoft and Bill G, with this thread being no exception. Nevertheless, what is notable about Microsoft is how little they have been able to accomplish in the last ten years, despite having a huge workforce of bright, talented people backed up by enormous financial resources. The reason for this, IMHO, is that Microsoft, the corporation, as established by Bill, primarily looks at new technology as an opportunity to collect tolls. They try and be first to spot the stuff that everyone is going to have to use or do and then they set themselves to collect tolls on the technological bridge that everyone is going to have to pass over. In that sense, they are more cunning than creative and that, ultimately, has been their downfall. Bill Gates book is more of a view of where he thought the future toll collecting opportunities were than it is of the potential for technology to improve lives. The best innovative tech entrepreneurs seem to think in terms of 'what is it possible to do with the technology? rather than 'how can we make money from the technology?' even though the latter question always becomes important in the later stages.

  • Miss?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bored (40072) on Friday May 21, 2010 @01:58PM (#32296948)

    Wireless Networks

    Prediction: "The wireless networks of the future will be faster, but unless there is a major breakthrough, wired networks will have a far greater bandwidth. Mobile devices will be able to send and receive messages, but it will be expensive and unusual to use them to receive an individual video stream."

    Sounds about spot on, especially if you consider HD video. Sure wireless is getting better but so are wired networks. I get 30+Mbit on my cable modem, and 10Gbit on my LAN. I can stream full 1080p HD quality compressed content over the internet without a second thought. I haven't seen to many wireless (ignoring 802.11g/n) networks capable of that, in fact its hard to stream any kind of video on any of the phone networks with any reliability.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:16PM (#32297236)
    Moore's Law will continue in memory and bandwidth for the same cost, adding another thousand to both of these aspects. I supect CPU speed will not grow as fast the next 15 years. What more can we do with all that extra power?

    Video will continue to move into any conceivable niche, large or small. There is still room for video quality to improve however. I've seen monitors with contrast & color nearly indistinguishable from looking through a window at SIGGRAPH. I dont know if we want to grow that way.

    There will be a generation of adults in elective office who have always had the InterNet, smart phones and social networks in their lives. Will that change the way the world is run?

    Something I have been hoping for decades- a practical voice interface- has eluded us so far. I suspect their could be a revolutionary jump in natural language understanding and generation coming from the search side of things. NL has been essentially "procedural" so far, explicitly elucidating the rules of sound, vocabulary and language. A "search" approach matches actual sound with its text interpetation and builds a corpous of correllations. Language translations using large archives of existing translations along with search works reasonably well.

    Speaking of "search", full multimedia recognition and archiving may be around the corner. Google "goggles" tries to match a smart phone photo with an archive of photographs. Imagine if you track a person's visage or voice through all of public cameras and telephony. That could redefine privacy.
  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:52PM (#32297760)
    When Bill Gates was in charge of the Microsoft empire, his goal was to serve the empire. Once he quit and started thinking full time about how to make the world a better place, he has become a hero of mine. I don't mean that in any ironic sense; there is no other prominent voice in the world which is advocating for all the right stuff the way Gates is. If you want to see Gates at his best, watch his 2010 talk at TED [ted.com]. Almost never do I hear a talk like this, where I am prepared to endorse pretty much every word, down to his enthusiastic advocacy of traveling wave reactors.
  • by rigorrogue (894093) on Friday May 21, 2010 @03:13PM (#32298100)

    Seriously.

    I've been a *nix user since 1996. I'm a fan. I try and turn people to the light side every day. Linux rocks seismically.

    But I'm fed up of too many idiots dissing the researchers at Microsoft. Sure, the company makes dumb-ass decisions. What do you expect? Their responsibility is to shareholders, whose interest is clear and short-term by and large.

    Check out their research.

    Here's their latest sidebar snippet:

    Understanding the Rainforest Ecosystem
    http://research.microsoft.com/c/1101/en-us/news/features/rainforest-051910.aspx [microsoft.com]

    The company, with its billions, employs some of the most productive and interesting research in applied Information Theory in the world. Yes , they suck at implementations for end users because they're committed to some daft User Interface decisions. But fuck, do they hire and fund well.

    My favorite is Haskell. Guess who funds Simone Peyton-Jones? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Peyton_Jones). Microsoft.

    Microsoft is a company. It's an independent personality in law. Its responsibility is to its owners. And that would all be evil and everything except that _lots_ of fine upstanding pillars of the academic community take Microsoft's shilling to pay the bills and still work on AMAZING technology.

    We /.ers love to praise Google, dis M$, scorn Apple, and worship *nix. Dumb. It's an ecosystem. We all contribute. Sure it's competitive. We all win.

    Or am I just an idiot?

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