Onstage with Bill Gates at Mix 06

I’m about to go onstage with Bill Gates this morning to talk about Web 2.0, as I call it, or Live Software, as he does. He starts at 9 with a keynote of 20-25 minutes, followed by a demo or two, and I think we’re on at about 9:40. I have twenty minutes to ask questions, and then ten from the audience. I believe that it’s going to be webcast here.

Here are the questions I’ve got queued up to ask him (obviously, I’m not going to get to them all, unless his answers are very short):

  1. I’m the guy who launched a thousand blog posts (or more precisely 99,064 according to Technorati) and almost as many VC pitches by starting the buzz about what I call web 2.0. You call it Live Software, but I think we’re talking about the same idea.


    One of the key aspects of “Web 2.0” is the development
    of systems that get better the more people use them. Even web 1.0
    is like that–everyone who builds a site and then links to another
    site is making an improvement to the entire web. Anyone who tags
    a photo in flickr, or a bookmark in del.icio.us, is adding value
    for every other user. Is Microsoft applying this idea to its own
    products? If so, how?

  2. Still on the Web 2.0 theme, it seems to me that data, rather than
    software APIs, is the new source of lock-in. For example, I was
    having a conversation with an insurance executive recently, and he
    pointed out that their rates are increasingly being set by telematics
    data — where you drive, how fast and how far — rather than by
    demographic data. He described them as hostage to the telematics
    data aggregator. Meanwhile, all of the web mapping engines rely
    on data from NavTeq and TeleAtlas. NavTeq has even gone so far as
    to label cars with “NavTeq Onboard” in the same way that Intel
    labels PCs as “Intel Inside.” Have these developments influenced
    your business strategy in any way?

  3. Microsoft has a history of knocking competitors out of the ring.
    Lotus, Borland, WordPerfect, Netscape. All of them are history.
    You’re even gaining ground against Oracle and IBM with SQL Server.
    But it seems to me that there’s a crucial difference in the competition
    you’re facing now. It’s not just a competition with a rival software
    company, but a competition between business models. Google and
    Yahoo! don’t sell software — they deliver services that are monetized
    by advertising. Even Apple is successfully in this game, with
    iTunes as a service bound to hardware and with a data pay-per-view
    model. Are we seeing the end of the software business model as
    we’ve known it for the past couple of decades?

  4. I’ve used the term “internet operating system” to describe what I’m
    seeing evolve. But obviously, it’s not an “operating system” in
    traditional terms. But we are starting to see the internet as a
    platform, working out rules for interoperability between applications,
    building (hopefully reliable) subsystems that developers can rely
    on. Can we talk a bit about what form the future internet platform
    will take?

  5. On a related note, one of the key principles of open source software development is
    said to be “Release early, and release often.” Now, Web 2.0
    developers like Flickr and 37signals have pushed that idea to an
    extreme, with Cal Henderson of Flickr reportedly pushing builds out
    to the net every 30 minutes. Even at sites like Google and Amazon,
    new features are rolled out regularly, often in a kind of “perpetual
    beta.” Meanwhile, Microsoft still rolls out its software in multi-
    year timeframes. And this is not for lack of cool new features in
    the labs. For example, the structured cut and paste with microformats
    that Ray Ozzie demoed at our eTech conference really made a splash.
    How can you get this kind of stuff more quickly into the main product
    stream? Or making this very concrete, why wasn’t Office Live just
    rolled out as an upgrade to Office, rather than a separate product?

  6. Do you have specific ideas about how you’re going to beat Google
    in search? What kinds of innovations are going to give us better
    results than we have today? A lot of folks have tried to displace
    Google — A9, Snap, MSN, Yahoo! — and none of them have made the

  7. What do you make of the fact that despite all the standards work
    done on the web services stack, that it’s more informally developed
    services like RSS that have become so widespread? And that Google
    Maps took off as a platform play after its data format was deciphered
    by a New Zealand programmer, while the formal web services APIs of
    other mapping players had received only limited uptake up till that
    time? Similarly, while the grand vision of the semantic web hasn’t
    gone anywhere, microformats are starting to catch on.

  8. What do you think about microformats? How important is data

  9. There are some very ambitious growth numbers for online advertising, but these assume advertisers will be able to profile people with some precision in order to target their advertising. How do you reconcile the personal computing model of selling software to the end user with the advertising model of selling the end user to the advertiser? Is there a balance that can be achieved here?

  10. As a publisher, I care a lot about how people will consume words in the future. I know you are passionate about tablets and on-screen reading. But is just creating a new form factor device what it’s going to take to launch this market? What does “Reading 2.0” look like?

  11. Last question: Freeman Dyson has described the last twenty years as being about the domestication of computing, and the next twenty years being about the domestication of biotechnology. Microsoft has obviously played a key role in domesticating computing, but you’re also pretty involved in public health and biotechnology issues. Thoughts on this next frontier?