Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gates’

Tablet Mania: Why The Tech Industry Thinks Their Time Has Finally Come

January 22, 2010

Here’s a story I wrote that gives some perspective on the long and mostly disappointing history of tablet computing.

The Next Big Thing, 20 Years Later
The tech industry thinks the time is right for tablets, thanks to lower prices and friendlier features

By Spencer E. Ante

If there was a land of misfit gadgets, the tablet computer would be one of its oldest residents. The tech industry, though, refuses to give up on these slate-like portable PCs. Tablets from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and others were some of the stars at this month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, while the buzz around Apple’s long-awaited entry into the market, due out this spring, is already deafening. “The industry understands better how people can use tablets,” says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Yet PC makers have been trying to sell consumers on the utility of tablets for decades—with little success. In 2001, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates predicted that tablets would be the most popular form of PC sold in the U.S. within five years; in 2009, they made up less than 1% of the market, according to estimates from research firm IDC.

The first generation was doomed by a combination of big price tags, short battery life, and clunky interfaces. Tablets’ capabilities have since evolved, as have the tastes of consumers. Portability is paramount, and the latest crop are lighter, boast longer battery life, and better screen technology. Software is more sophisticated, too, and Web connections have improved. “The timing is right for this,” says Philip McKinney, vice-president and chief technology officer of HP’s Personal Systems Group. “We wouldn’t go into a market that we felt wasn’t going to be widely adopted.”

Read the rest of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek story here.

Did Anything Happen at CES?

January 12, 2009

2009 was going to be an off year at the Consumer Electronics Show no matter what. First, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who gave the keynote speech for many years, ended his reign of CES keynotes. Second, the damn economy dashed a lot of people’s hopes for attending the show.

I’ve never been to CES actually, and have never been a big fan of the show. But I always pay attention to what goes on, if for no other reason that it’s a good table setter that gets me thinking about the potentially big trends for the year.

So did anything of consequence happen this year? Nothing earth shattering. But it seems like there were a few things of note, according to this blog post by the folks at Colorado venture capital firm The Foundry Group. Most of the action seemed to be centered around TV innovation. It’s nice to see that a 60-year-old technology still has legs.

But 3D on TV? C’mon, people. It feels like the 1950s all over again when the industry gets excited about 3D.

# Don’t buy a television for the next 6 months. This is certainly counter to what retailers and producers would want us to say, especially given the current state of the economy, but all the major brands are introducing exciting technologies in the first half of 2009. The TVs are thinner (some less than 1mm!), brighter (LED backlighting rocks), faster (240mhz refresh rate) and offer superior contrast ratios (1,000,000 to 1 and even higher).

Next to the best of today’s generation of panels, there is no comparison. Having been to CES a few years in a row, this year seemed to demonstrate the biggest improvements on imaging. If you don’t buy a TV in this generation, hold on a couple of years until OLED TVs are commonplace and then sit a back and look at the best displays we’ve ever seen. For now, we’ll geek out on LED backlit generation two screens.

# Everyone is trying to make things easier on consumers. It only took 20 years or so, but consumer device manufactures, both large and small are finally focusing on the consumer experience. Maybe this is the effect of Apple’s entrance into the consumer device ecosystem, but this year, in particular, showed many instances of deep thinking about usability.

What was of particular interest to us were some of the startups that attended the show and instead of presenting groundbreaking technology, rather have executed on current technologies to bring the consumer a needed digital solution with the ease of use never seen before at an unexpectedly low price.

# 3D on TV. Full HD TVs and projectors that have incredible 3D-images (glasses needed) are now consumer available. Clearly the amount of content available will drive how popular these devices become, but the technology is really impressive to experience. We played a VW racing game in 3D and would have been happy to sit there all afternoon, or at least until the inevitable headaches set in. There was also a prototype of a 3D TV that didn’t require the viewer to wear glasses. It was pretty rough, but cool at the same time.

We have our doubts that the entire universe of content will ever go 3D, given how different the production tools and processes are for live-action movies and television. However, for media like video games and CG animated content which are largely “3D native” already, there should be less of a hurdle to create appropriate 3D content, and probably better justification from a user-experience perspective as well.

Read the rest of the post here.

Thanks Billg: Bill Gates Gives “Creative Capitalism” the Spotlight

January 26, 2008

It’s good to be thinking like the king of the technology world. This Thursday before a standing-room-only crowd at Davos, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates coined the phrase “creative capitalism” to explain his new vision for making the world a better place.

Making the transition from software baron to social philosopher. Gates called for a new type of “creative capitalism” that generates profits while also improving lives of people who don’t fully benefit from today’s market economy.

“There are billions of people who need the great inventions of the computer age, and many more basic needs as well, but they have no way of expressing their needs in ways that matter to the market, so they go without,” said Gates. “If we are going to have a chance of changing their lives, we need another level of innovation. Not just technology innovation, we need system innovation, and that’s what I want to discuss with you here in Davos today.”

“The challenge here is to design a system where market incentives, including profits and recognition, drive those principles to do more for the poor,” said Gates. “I like to call this idea creative capitalism, an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.”

If you haven’t read the speech, you should. It’s quite brilliant–in a totally different league than Gates’s disappointing remarks at the Consumer Electronics Show. Although Gates is known for being one of the world’s most intense competitors (under his reign after all a U.S. District Court found Microsoft guilty of engaging in anti-competitive behavior, and the company continues to draw the ire of regulators across the world), I applaud his attempt to focus more attention and resources on tackling global poverty.

The good thing is that such a movement already exists–and in his speech Gates rightfully recognizes some of the movers and shakers, such as C.K. Prahalad. Over the last five years, many tech companies have invested heavily in developing nations because they already see the huge profit potential in those fast-growing markets. And entrepreneurship is becoming a global phenomenon as many poor people begin to use their own initiative–and small amounts of capital–to improve their living conditions.

The best example is the work of the Bangladeshi banker and economist Muhammad Yunnus, who pioneered the idea of micro-credit. Such loans are given to entrepreneurs considered too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In the 1970s, Yunnus started the Grameen Bank to make these small loans. He was inspired during the terrible Bangladesh famine of 1974 to make a tiny loan of $27 to a group of 42 families so that they could create small items for sale without the burdens of predatory lending. In 2006, Yunus and the bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”

At the end of his speech, Gates laid down a huge challenge. “I’d like to ask everyone here, whether you’re in business, government or the non-profit world, to take on a project of creative capitalism in the coming year,” he said. “Whether it’s foreign aid or charitable gifts or new products, can you find a way to apply this so that the power of the marketplace helps the poor? I hope corporations will dedicate a percentage of their top innovators’ time to issues that could help people left out of the global economy. This kind of contribution is even more powerful than giving cash or offering employees’ time off to volunteer.”

Has anyone heard of any companies or governments that have answered this challenge? It’ll be interesting to see how people respond to this call to arms.

HOW TO BUY CREATIVE CAPITAL: To pre-order Creative Capital, click here to go to

CES–the New “Moronic Inferno”

January 15, 2008

Four BusinessWeek reporters–Heather Green, Arik Hesseldahl, Catherine Holahan and Spencer Ante–break down the week’s most important tech news events in this new online video show, Digital Dish. Among the highlights:
* Bill Gates, giving his last CES address, went out with a whimper
* The Halo Effect: Everyone in Vegas was thinking about Apple and its next move in digital media
* Microsoft acquires a search provider and Jimmy Wales releases a new search engine but will it move the needle against Google?
* Andrew Cuomo, the New York attorney general, sues Intel. Can he make the charges stick?

Coming Up: A two-part interview with venture capital legend Thomas J. Perkins

HOW TO BUY CREATIVE CAPITAL: To pre-order Creative Capital, click here to go to