Microsoft's Bill Gates at NVTC Titans Breakfast: Next 10 Years Will Be the "Second Digital Decade" with Pragmatic Advances in Technology InnovationAddress, Q&A Focus on Technology's Impact on Business and Home, and the Issues of Education and Immigration
HERNDON, VA, March 13, 2008 - At this morning's NVTC Titans Breakfast, hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the largest technology council in the nation, Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation, said the next 10 years will mark a "second digital decade" involving pragmatic advances in technology innovation. The incredible advances of the past decade, in terms of software development and the growth of the Internet laid the foundation for these profound changes that will dramatically impact the way individuals work, live and learn and will empower the end user like never before, Gates said.
Before the audience of 1,100 technology executives, Gates also addressed a range of topics, including the future of technology in the workplace and issues facing U.S. education, immigration and workforce challenges.
Businesses will operate in a "hybrid" technology environment- some operations will remain local while others will transition to the Internet or "be in the cloud," through a combination of software plus services, according to Gates. Moving data operations to an Internet-based architecture will decrease IT costs as less onsite expertise will be required. The way businesses will view data will change as "software will do 90 percent of what we do manually today," he said. Important to this evolution, Gates noted, is that organizations will likely require a mixed environment that offers the best blend of local computing power while also taking advantage of the flexibility offered by Internet-based architectures.
Some of the revolutionary workforce technologies-for instance intelligent surfaces-also will have applicability in home and business environments, Gates said. Microsoft is currently testing a new product, Microsoft Surface, that once launched will not require expensive new hardware-only "software and a camera," and, one day, "will be a standard in the home and in businesses." Gates said Microsoft looks forward to its business partners taking this idea and "running with it" to create new and bigger applications than currently envisioned, including, to just begin with, those in the retail and hospitality industries.
In the classroom, technology will allow for a more interactive learning experience, Gates said, with Tablet PCs replacing text books. The "magic threshold" at which Tablet PCs will be available to students in a cost-effective manner is only two to three years away, and this will revolutionize the way students learn, he continued. According to Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, who briefly joined Gates onstage for the Q&A session, students' lives inside and out of the classroom are dramatically different today. Unfortunately, there is a "disparity between traditional academic and what life [outside of school] looks like," Mundie said.
Gates also noted that providing high-quality education experiences in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is more important than ever for the United States to grow a skilled workforce in today's global knowledge economy. Students enrolled in educational institutions where STEM is emphasized are more enthusiastic about these topics of study and more apt to consider a STEM-related career, added Mundie, which is vital to continued U.S. competitiveness in the global technology market.
Another important issue related to U.S. competitiveness, and the focus of Gates' testimony yesterday on Capitol Hill, is the fact that "talented, smart people" who want to live and work in the United States cannot because of issues with the current H1-B visa program, Gates said. Many of the best and brightest foreign students who are educated in the United States have only one choice: to take their talents elsewhere. The nation needs to better embrace free trade policies and research development activities to allow the "smartest people" to work here to ensure future competitiveness in the highly competitive global technology market.