November 16, 2006 12:40 PM PST
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As you think about devices working together--if you take a picture with your camera, you might want it to go onto this large hard disk, so you don't have to think about changing your flash (card), or things like that.
So (there are a) number of scenarios where devices start working together in a more synergistic way, even discovering each other. You go near to a big screen, or go near to some better speakers--can you, over the wireless, find those, connect up? Another music collection, can that be remotely accessed?
The car is a great example. You want to use the speakers there and the screens there, but you don't want to have to copy all your (music) collection. We look a lot at these device interaction scenarios. That's why we talk about it as user-centric, because you won't want to think about just maintaining stuff on one device and moving them around yourself. You'll just think of your playlists as being essentially in the "cloud," and they show up on any device that you say that you're a common user of.
Looking at Office--big changes this time around. The user interface is really different. There's clearly some risks in that, and some investment required by companies when you change the way things look and feel. Why is it worth it to change Office so much?
Gates: Well, first of all, there's no effect on companies really. It's just as an individual, when you fire up Word 2007 you go, "Wow, those options are right there. You know--all the familiar stuff that you use regularly is just there. It's pretty obvious what we've done, but you'll probably take the first half-hour getting used to those things.
We have over a million users on the thing now, we understand the usability quite well. People adjust very quickly. In fact, within a few days, people do not want to go back to the (old) version because the ribbon (feature) takes advantage of the idea that screens are bare now, and instead of burying things in a two-level menu, just (has) them out there.
It was a very risky thing to do, and Julie Larson-Green and the team who internally championed that, I love what they did. It's been less controversial than we expected. You know, the world's most-used application, as you say, hundreds of millions of people who know just without thinking, you know, fifth menu, seventh item, they're going to have to look at that ribbon, but they'll find what they want. It's not like you need to go to a training session. You just need to sit there and look at the screen.
Remember part of the reason we took this leap is that some of the great things we've done in Office people would say, "Hey, why don't you have a feature to do this?" And we'd say, "Well, that's interesting, we do have a feature to do that."
And I, myself, PowerPoint is an example. Excel and Word, I kind of know most of it, and I know where it all is. PowerPoint, I'm not the heavy user. Animations, I've just never used them. Now it's pretty easy for me. I'm (in favor of) the risk that was taken, because it's very important to have a culture that's willing to take that kind of risk.
Similar thing on file formats. Again, people are used to those formats the way they are. Why go with new XML file formats?
Gates: Well, to be clear, we support the old file formats, totally and completely. If you (have Office) 2003, we have these add-ons that just come down over the Internet that can even read the new format in the old version, which is an amazing thing that we have not done before. In Office 2003, we put in a futureproof converter architecture that could go find on the Internet the things for any future format.
The simplest thing, of course, is to upgrade to 2007, but if your company standard won't let you or whatever, fine.