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mix and mash with bill

mix and mash bill gates 2006

Today I asked Bill Gates, “What’s on your Christmas list?” and he answered:

“I’m a pretty hard guy to shop for. (Laughter.) Actually, there is a site I like called They have some great lectures on various science topics I’ve listened to, but I haven’t gone through them all. Also, I purposely didn’t buy the latest season of 24 on DVD – so someone could get that for me.

I asked him what his thoughts were on the $100 laptop (see my last post) and if it was really going to change the world. His comments were interesting:

“For rich people to supply laptops to the poor seems like it’s addressing the wrong problem. There are more people who think PC’s will solve the world’s problems. Unless you get the roles in place it has a tendency to get overblown.

Our solution is to put PC’s into every library. If you can get to a library, you can get to a PC. Microsoft funded the hardware and supplied the software. It’s been carried out in Chile, Mexico and Botswana – it’s about really letting people who cannot get computing into the home access to it. The cost of a broadband into the home is the highest cost and the second is the training teachers need to train their kids.

I think making a cell phone into a larger productivity product that projects onto a larger screen and allows you to use things like a USB stick or a cloud stick to transfer data – you don’t need to own a computer to access the biggest things. Can a cell phone under AC power in a developing country project onto a TV? It doesn’t yet exist – it’s an incubation project that we’re working on. It starts this concept of devices working together — to have music working through the – car – home – pc’s cell phones. The device screens’ self discovery is one of the most interesting scenarios.”

A surreal and exciting day at an intimate event called the “Mix and Mash.” When I was invited and told I would be meeting with Bill Gates, I assumed there would be at least a hundred people attending. Little did I know it was a group of fourteen key ‘influencers’ in the industry. Yesterday when flying out of the SFO airport, I ran into Tantek Celik and Niall Kennedy and at an evening mixer in Seattle later that night (after nearly 4-hours of delays) Tantek commented to the group, “so what are we doing here anyways?” It was great catching up with Molly Holzschlag and Shaun Inman and met a few people I have known of but had never met, including Mike Arrington, Chris Pirillo and Evan Williams (yes, I signed up for twitter!). Just to round off the list, Jeremy Zawodny, Liz Gannes, Rael Dornfest, Ryan Freitas, Ryan Stewart and Steve Rubel were part of the festivities.

Microsoft has been making a very solid effort to win the approval of the web-focused design and development community. Since the MIX conference last year, they have sought to improve their communications and maintain their ‘transparent’ status in the industry. So in an effort to maintain their full-disclosure status, someone at Microsoft came up with this little event ‘mixer’ and flew a group of us in, set us up at a gorgeous hotel and tempted us with this supposed meeting with Bill. It ended up being a pretty amazing day.

The day started as a ‘showcase’ of one team to the next – with roundtable (or long table) discussions with Microsoft’s team to let them know our feedback and comments on their direction. To kick the day off, Ray Winninger (director of Web Live) explained why we were here in his ‘I love my job’ speech:

The web is an obviously community-driven space. We’re trying to shift the way we do business and how we look at the space. We’re consciously trying to inject community into the way we do our work. What we’ve asked you here for today – you’re all leaders in various aspects of the web community and we’d like to give you a ‘status report’ and give you sense of the latest and greatest things and to get your feedback. We’d like to get your ideas on how we can do things better. In respect to the MIX conference itself. We want to do what we can for the web community – and how we can make it as interesting to the web community as possible.

He went on to give an overiew of next year’s MIX conference. (note – forgive typos here, these are notes from the session today.)

The conference is April 30th – May 2nd at the Venetian Hotel again. Ray Ozzie will be the keynote speaker – to take over for Bill. I think this might be his first large event in this capacity. We’re working with a lot of high profile 3rd party companies – not just interesting but a lot of fun. Ground rules – this is not an NDA event – free to write about anything you see – record or do what you like – with ONE exception – we cannot take any pictures once Bill arrives. (Bummer). Scott Guthrie and Forrest Keys will talk briefly about our views on the future of web development. They will explain how to build and design more interesting web experiences. Next, Dean Economic will talk about the browser front and the reception to I.E. 7.0 and I.E. 8.0 (not under NDA). Then George Moore will talk about our live services and talk about our digital home and media center – and after Charlie we have Boyd Multcher will talk about XBOX 360 and how to enable bright high school kids to make games. San Jay (our boss) will have lunch for us – then we’ll talk about the MIX conference. Bill will be joining us in the afternoon.

Scott Guthrie talked about the .NET framework (this is long – sorry):

Today we’ll be focusing on web development and client development. A fun mix of things to span both clients – from the development side, and figure out how do we make it easier for developers to do what they do best. AJAX which we renamed /AJAX and about 30-days away from releasing a final V1 release. We will be providing 24/7 technical support as well as hot fixes for anyone who is interested. In the past 6 months we have had about 400,000 developers using it actively. This is pretty spectacular in the past 12 months – a lot of adoption and a lot of large interest from Internet site. Large companies (such as MySpace) are leaders in adoption. Nearly a billion and a half per day on MySpace.

In the next year we’re focusing on building on ASP2.0 we’re calling it ORCAS (after an island near Seattle) – and will be shipping bits of our new visual studio tool focusing on CSS. If you’ve looked at the Expression Web Designer we’ll be focusing on that UI Visual Studio – and the “Express” edition which is free. It includes a built in web server and debugger – we’re spending a lot of time working on that and spending a lot of time focusing on data access focusing in something we call LINQ – which helps people interact with data in a new way. We’re also looking at dynamic languages from a programmer perspective and adding more support for .NET. IT will be building on newer technologies which we’ll be featuring at MIX. WPF/E – builds on top of our AJAX work – a lot of customers are asking for. This will give a greater ability to produce more rich graphics – it also includes a video CODEX and will support streaming broadcast – to help support graphics as well as media and it works cross browser and cross platform. It enables you to integrate richer experiences into any AJAX app.

Let me show you a quick demo and then talk to these points. It includes an animation language which includes XAMEL – where you can get access to any graphics element. We will support both software and hardware rasterization. Graphics piece. WPF/E – you can use this for portions of the page – and can use the exact same AJAX libraries to program against it. If you’ve used DOJO – you can just define a class to define an element on the board and transfer XAML to do server side rendering – interesting things using data transfer and it lets you do interesting things that aren’t available today. WFP is the graphics library to build windows applications – which would include any application for the web. So you build a real windows application to work on the web – WPF/E is optimized for browser. (note: Niall and Molly stated WPF/E is really confusing and Scott said it was just a code name.)

The web is an obviously community-driven space. We’re trying to shift the way we do business and how we look at the space. We’re consciously trying to inject community into the way we do our work. What we’ve asked you here for today – you’re all leaders in various aspects of the web community and we’d like to give you a ‘status report’ and give you sense of the latest and greatest things and to get your feedback. We’d like to get your ideas on how we can do things better. In respect to the MIX conference itself. We want to do what we can for the web community – and how we can make it as interesting to the web community as possible.

The next discussion surrounded Windows Live which is impressive. Some comments:

 Windows Live – 465 Million people every month
 Windows Live mail is amount the worlds largest email services with over 260 million active accounts
 Windows Live messenger is the worlds largest IM services with more than 255 million users
 WL spaces is the world’s largest blogging service with over 120M users and 60M spaces created with 2B PV/month.

There are a number of ‘tools’ that allow you to predict demographic information using the Windows Live platform using informaoin users are providing using search terms and other information (Windows Live ID).

Flexible partners models – to ‘extend the experience” – the platform is “Windows Live” – starting with first party services (running through office on top of windows – things like messenger and mail and such. The second piece is taking the existing messenger applications and allow 3nrd parties to extend and rebrand them – giving them free access to hotmail and messenger – and they can add their own skinning of the basic experience – free access and no ads (for students) and when they become alumni we add ads (they get the email account for life). 3rd column – we take bits and allow developers to script and build and distribute your own Experience. We have a number of controls out – a number of Jscript and you can add to your site – and have access to users contact list. 4th solution is to provide the raw, naked API’s.

Following lunch, Sanjay Parthansarathy, Corporate VP – developer and platform evangelism spoke to the group.

“How do we take what we are good at which is platform technology and take evangelism to designers – to pro consumers – to people who want to make a difference in medicine, healthcare, etc. How do we make this more relevant to more than just developers or IT professionals? How do we give this type of hi-fidelity experience that a face-to-face can have? How do we that fidelity? The third things I care about it – we reach about 20 million people a year – how do we get this to 100 million a year? We don’t even scratch the service. One of the things that MIX is for is to start making this transition? I’ve been here for 17 years – and I’m so close to these things – we want to get your feedback and have the time we need to take this to the next level.”

Also, we saw the Ny Times Reader application which is amazing. The reader has been available since September of this year – so this is not completely new – but it does start to change the way we think about ‘desktop’ and ‘interface’ and I encourage you to download and try it to see some pretty amazing options for reading and finding articles of interest.

There are some interesting changes that continue to brew over at Microsoft. While I feel they have a long ways to go in order to communicate effectively with the ‘designer’ crowd (that term can be debated, in this case I am using it to categorize traditionally trained graphic designers focusing more on the visual design, user experience and front end of the web and application design – rather than hard core programmers or developers.) There are several months this year to plan for MIX (instead of the 100 days they had last year to throw the event together which was pretty remarkable!) — adequate time for the team to determine who their audience is and what they really want to tell them.

Posted on December 14th, 2006 in Thoughts
Tagged as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Kelly Goto

9 Responses to “mix and mash with bill”


  1. Christian says:

    nixe stuff, please more comments to this topic.

  2. Cell Phone Reviews says:

    I can’t imagine Mr. Gates not havin everything he wants already. But, good for him…he deserves it I guess.

  3. Sohbet says:

    Thanks, i was desperately looking for that info!, great article covering some points I really needed, some good usability info for.

  4. yellowpages says:

    Wonderful Article i enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing with us! Gates rocks!

  5. sohbet says:

    I read it and i think you right.

  6. online shopping says:

    Very interesting. Especially in light of looking at it two years later, and seeing where Bill Gates is now. Just a week ago I heard the announcement that he is finally leaving Microsoft to work more closely with charity and development projects. Kudos to Bill for doing the right thing, if you ask me. I’m really impressed with his attitude. I wonder why you weren’t allowed to take pictures once he arrived at this conference? That’s weird. Maybe he just doesn’t like being in the limelight and having his pics thrown all over the net… probably ever since that ‘pie’ incident (snicker…)

  7. Kelly Goto says:

    It is indeed interesting to look back at this two years later. Two of us from this session were invited back a year later (Molly and myself) and I asked Mr. Gates what having children has meant to him and what legacy he wishes to leave behind for them. He became very practical and talked about the fact that he had always dropped them off at school each morning. But after July 2008 he would be able to pick them up as well. I was able to play with the ‘surface’ and it is just ironic (is there a better word?’ that Microsoft reached some major interface and innovation goals through the development of the Surface Table. But no one has been able to play with or use it … so Apple once again takes the charge in ‘gesture-based’ interfaces. See my post ‘Microsoft to MacWorld’ which was my last post until today.

  1. Pingback December 14th, 2006 by GigaOM » Bill Gates on the Future of Web Apps

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