Bill Gates Talk

Here is the transcript of the talk Bill Gates gave at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2004. A nice overivew of new technologies. This is what he had to say about email, collaboration, RSS and blogs:

E-mail suffers when you have lots of people collaborating and different attachments that are going back and forth. And the creation of this idea that, whenever you want to work with somebody, you just create a Web site — called a SharePoint Web site — that’s been very explosive in the last year as we’ve built that more into Office. Office, even if you have the latest, will make a hint that when you send an e-mailed attachment that, do you really just want to click here and we’ll just make a Web site that everybody can go to and see what’s going on there?

What happens very quickly when a company adopts that is you get all different templates for these shared Web sites for starting a project, for doing a meeting, for discussing what’s going on with a customer. It’s phenomenal to see how quickly that takes place. So, the next generation of collaboration really is about bottoms-up creation of Web sites where the IT department doesn’t have to get involved. In fact, you can just have a few people administering 50,000 different sites and those sites get staged out and everything in a simple way.

Another new phenomenon that connects into this is one that started outside of the business space, more in the corporate or technical enthusiast space, a thing called blogging. And a standard around that that notifies you that something has changed called RSS.

This is a very interesting thing, because whenever you want to send e-mail you always have to sit there and think who do I copy on this. There might be people who might be interested in it or might feel like if it gets forwarded to them they’ll wonder why I didn’t put their name on it. But, then again, I don’t want to interrupt them or make them think this is some deeply profound thing that I’m saying, but they might want to know. And so, you have a tough time deciding how broadly to send it out.

Then again, if you just put information on a Web site, then people don’t know to come visit that Web site, and it’s very painful to keep visiting somebody’s Web site and it never changes. It’s very typical that a lot of the Web sites you go to that are personal in nature just eventually go completely stale and you waste time looking at it.

And so, what blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to write something that you can think of, like an e-mail, but it goes up onto a Web site. And then people who care about that get a little notification. And so, for example, if you care about dozens of people whenever they write about a certain topic, you can have that notification come into your Inbox and it will be in a different folder and so only when you’re interested in browsing about that topic do you go in and follow those, and it doesn’t interfere with your normal Inbox.

And so if I do a trip report, say, and put that in a blog format, then all the employees at Microsoft who really want to look at that and who have keywords that connect to it or even people outside, they can find the information.

Jeff Jarvis provides a wider view:

Gates wasn’t talking about blogs as blather. He was talking about blogs as tools for personal and business publishing of any kind of information. And he was talking about RSS as a new means of communication and distribution.

This means that, of course, Microsoft will embrace blogs and RSS in its tools, from Word to IE. It also makes Google look smart for buying Blogger (without a strategy then).

Providing publishing tools and space will be an essential service in the near future — for businesses, for family shopping lists, for unlimited sorts of publishing — and the war to win that space is just beginning.

Forget giving me virtually unlimited free email space. Give me virtually unlimited blogspace (and bandwidth).

I’m not sure how this will shake out for companies. It’s easy to argue that blogging toolmakers should consider moving to Maine and opening a B&B (with or without selling to Microsoft) — but then again, as personal and business publishing gets more specialized, there may be opportunities in creating specialized tools. Wouldn’t it be great if the Microsoft Word blogging tool allowed plug-ins? Yeah, it would be great.

The smart way to look at Gates’ blessing is to think about blogging as a platform for any kind of publishing, communication, and distribution. Bill will.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.