October 18, 2007 4:00 AM PDT
Gates still has a long to-do list
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The conference table, the office whiteboard and even the bedroom mirror are all surfaces that will one day be replaced with an intelligent computer screen, Gates said.
"Give us a 5- to 10-year time frame and we will wonder why our tables used to sit there and not do anything for us," Gates said.
Pall said that Gates' strength is helping the company see where technology will help previously disparate things come together. "He is amazing at spotting what are the connections that need to be made, and then moving on to the next opportunity to make the connection, and letting the rest of Microsoft and the industry innovate once the proper connection has been made."
As for the other projects Gates expects to work on once he becomes a part-timer, he said, "Search is such a fun area right now."
Microsoft has found itself in an intense battle with Google and, despite pouring tons of research into the area, it remains in third place behind Google and Yahoo.
Gates was more circumspect about another area he is working on. "There are some ideas about where Office should go...I'm really quite enthused about some things."
Others at the company say that Gates is particularly driven about the notion of how presence--the notion of a computer knowing whether someone is online or not--can be used by computers to help prioritize work.
Kim Akers, general manager of Microsoft's unified communications effort, said Gates has been pushing her team, as it integrates various modes of communications, to also make other software programs aware of when someone is busy and when--and how--they are available.
"Once you integrate that communication, how can you use the power of software to drive productivity gains?" she said.
If, say, you have an hour free on your schedule, Akers said that Gates believes an intelligent agent should be able to look at your calendar and prioritize some of the top tasks and messages that you might want to tackle.
"It's very futuristic," she said.
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