Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bill Gates Keynote At Convergence



After a bit of a late night, I got up at 5:45 so that I could get showered and breakfasted early. I wanted to get a decent seat at Bill Gates' key note this morning. I achieved my objective. I was in the middle section in the 15th row.

Bill is not an ultra dynamic speaker. However, he is efficient as a thinking speaker. By this I mean that his words come out cleanly and he is able to communicate his ideas with few words. This is in marked contrast to two speakers I endured yesterday: gobs and gobs of words coming out without much communicative content. And yes, for those who know me, I recognize that this is a hypocritical comment for me to make. However, comparing Gates' style of speaking with the styles of some of his executives made me realize that I need to cultivate the ability to articulate ideas concisely. Gates was masterful at it. Bill was thoughtful and excited, and he used an economy in his words that deeply impressed me.

Microsoft is doing some incredibly innovative stuff. With each passing year, they continue to develop better ways of connecting people with information and this is done by connecting systems and data together in ways that are quite powerful. I have been blown away by some of the things I have seen so far at the conference.

This morning, Bill demoed technology that wowed the crowd and it aroused an emotional reaction from me. He showed three contexts: home, work and travel.

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At home, he showed a home computer that was oriented in portrait mode and hung on a wall. On the screen was TV, family scheduling activities, pictures, notes, etc. He navigated the screen with touches, a la Minority Report's virtual 3D hand manipulation with the key difference being that extra gear wasn't needed. He saw a MSNBC news item that interested him, so he marked it as one to Track. The info was moved to his phone to allow him to follow the story as he commuted.

He was also able to track the actual real-time location of his children, which brought appreciative snickers from the parents in the audience.

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At work... oh my. At work, he walked up to a desk that had three large, ugly panels. But as Bill set his phone down on the desk, a wave of predictive realization washed over the audience as they understood that Bill was about to boot up a computer that had near-180 degree monitors that were probably 2x3'. It was a wrap-around monitor set up that was amazing.

As soon as he logged in, his MSNBC news story followed him in. He was on a conference call and dropped the MSNBC item onto the video conference screen and all attendees on the call had access to the story.

At the airport, he dropped his phone onto a table that recognized the phone and gave Bill the opportunity to log into his phone and his data. He did this with his finger print. The table then displayed a desktop for his phone. Think of this in terms of those portable keyboards for PDAs but with a touch-sensitive monitor. Kind of like a Tablet PC. Bill had received a business card from someone at a meeting, so he put the card on the table and it scanned the contents and put an object representing the card on the desktop. Bill then dragged it to the icon for his phone and the table beamed the card into his Contacts in Outlook. The crowd actually applauded.

It was truly exciting. I felt I was seeing a glimpse into a very real, not-so-distant future. Even as I write this, I am excited. It was a breathtaking demonstration of technology that was actually useful.