May 19, 2005 9:54 AM PDT

Gates: 'Information overload' is overblown

REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Thursday countered the popular notion that workers are universally overloaded with too much information.

Speaking to a crowd of chief executives, Gates cited the need for access to even more data in areas such as sales results and corporate budgets.

"I'd say in all of these cases, we are really dealing with information underload," Gates said in his talk, which kicked off Microsoft's annual CEO Summit. "We still want a lot of information."

The problem, Gates said, is that the information exists, but it is not in one place and cannot be easily viewed in a meaningful way using today's software.

"You have to seek the information is spread across different systems," Gates said.

As expected, Gates also outlined the company's plans for Office 12, the next version of its flagship desktop software, which is due to arrive in the second half of next year.

Gates pointed to e-mail as an area where the information is coming in too quickly to be properly evaluated.

"There is a real temptation that the thing that comes in the latest is the one you shift your attention to, even though that may be the least important," Gates said. The result, he said, is that people either have to leave everything "in one big bucket" or they have to spend a lot of time creating lots of folders. "That turns you into a filing clerk."

In addition to making it easier for individuals to manage e-mail, Gates said, Microsoft is working on technology that will allow companies to set policies to ensure that different types of information are shared only with the right people and archived in a way that complies with legal strictures.

Searching for answers
Gates also devoted a fair amount of time to the issue of search technology, an area in which the company has invested heavily to try and catch up to rivals such as Google and Yahoo. He said that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

The typical Web search takes 11 minutes these days. Gates acknowledged that that is a big improvement over search times and capabilities of a few years ago, when half of the searches didn't yield the needed information. He added, however, that a Web search is still a "treasure hunt" in which one hopes that the top few links contain the desired information.

"We really want to get to the point where you are getting direct answers," Gates said. The company's MSN Search already has that for a few areas, he said, demonstrating queries on "Which country has the second-largest GDP?" and "How many calories are there in spinach?" (The answers: "Japan" and "7 calories for 1 cup.")

Gates also showed off the Windows Desktop Search that Microsoft introduced earlier this week, demonstrating how it could show all his mail from "Steve" and even which documents were attached to those e-mails. "It's certainly the most interesting feature we've ever added in between major releases."

Searching for information within a corporation's own network is another area of focus--one for which traditional Web-search methods do not work, Gates said.

Among the primary concerns in developing internal-search software is that not every worker should be permitted access to sensitive documents, such as financial data or personnel information. Also, Web searches typically answer queries by ranking pages based on the number of links they have, a system that "doesn't work in a corporate environment," he noted. "There just aren't that many links done."


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If it's on the Internet, it must be true
"[Gates demonstrated] queries on "Which country has the second-largest GDP?" and "How many calories are there in spinach?" (The answers: "Japan" and "7 calories for 1 cup.")

It took me a lot less than "11 minutes" to determine that the US government believes that China, not Japan, has the second-largest GDP:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Posted by poster48150 (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
WOW! It must be true...
Thanks for the link... it took me under eleven (11) seconds.. ;-) to note that a country (that I have never heard about) Tokelau, and by Rank Order - GDP; it is at the bottom of the totem pole... um um; thanks again for your efforts!

Posted by (187 comments )
Link Flag
11 minutes?
That's what amazed me. Is that a typo or did Gates misspeak?
Because 11 seconds seems a lot more realistic than 11 minutes.

If not either of those then he really needs to talk to either his
programmers about the search engine, or his network admins
about his internet connection.

Or does he mean 11 minutes to both get the search results back
and hit the right link to get the info? That could be correct given
I do often have to check several links before I find what I'm
looking for.
Posted by taznar (45 comments )
Link Flag
E-mail data flow too quick?
"Gates pointed to e-mail as an area where the information is coming in too quickly to be properly evaluated."

If we got rid of all the dirty spammers that are out there, I'd bet it wouldn't even come half as quick. (This is seeing that around 70% of all messages I recieve these days are spam)
Posted by musicman2059 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Typical Gates/MS 'info', inaccurate or all out lies.
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong here...

Workers want a stable computing environment.
Workers want a secure computing environment.
Workers want a compatible computing environment.
Workers want a useful uncluttered computing environment.

Microsoft has yet to deliver on any of the above. Ever.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm correcting you...
Workers don't care as long as they can get their work done without any problems and don't get yelled at because the computers keep crashing.

On the other hand Owners and home user (most of which are computer stoopud) believe anything people tell them as long as it sound good.

And as for us techies. We believe what ever fits our point of view at the time.

So what do Users, Workers, Owners/CEO/etc., and techies really want? What ever makes us feel better. Now go and find your tech god and ********* them (and yes I spelled worship wrong).
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Novell Evolution - problem solved.
E-Mail turns you into a filing clerk? Maybe Gates is still using Outlook.

Evolution has a little handy thing called v-folders, where it makes live updated folders on the fly as you search.

Also.. who uses MSN search?? We all know Google is the only search engine there is, if your not using it.. your wasting your time.

I guess what this really comes down to is.. if your using Microsoft stuff.. yeah, you'll defenately have trouble making sense of what your computer is trying to tell you.
Posted by Solaris_User (267 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Novell Schmovell.
I like really like Novell. I just thought I would do a New type headline to get your attention. I wonder if Novell plans on make Evolution available for Windows. Of course the only reason I ask is because the more linux stuff you can get on Windows today only make the defection to linux later easier.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag

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