Ed: I suggested that you do less research and development than some other companies and you mostly buy things instead of developing them. Now you've bought stock in Lernout & Hauspie, eight per cent, I believe? What part of R&D is done by Lernout & Hauspie and what part is done by Microsoft? Are you planning on building a language lab to develop things like semantic engines for future translation programs?
Bill Gates: We started our natural language research group about six years ago and this is certainly one of the top groups in the world doing some pretty amazing things. We started our speech group about four years ago and there's a lot of great work going on there.
Ed: How much work have you done on developing language systems that can be incorporated in your operating system in the future? Things like speaking to the computer instead of clicking on the mouse, continuous speech recognition?
Gates: We've shown speech recognition, speech synthesis technology that was totally developed at Microsoft, and there are objective measures of the quality of this work. Have you been to any of the conferences? Seen the presentations? Now we're getting these groups together to get the best of the work in both.
That discussion is just starting. There are some things in terms of covering a broad set of languages that Lernout & Hauspie - clearly we're going to rely on them to get some of the breadth of additional languages, for some of the vertical dictionaries, like medical and legal, we're certainly going to rely on them.,P> For basic technology we've basically done our own work but we're going to pool that together, based on some discussions that are taking place in the next six months and see what the best approach is.
Ed: Do you regard it as very strategic?
Gates: Speech? Yes!
Ed: You spoke about set-top boxes based on Windows CE. Is Windows CE the Java killer? Because Java was said to be the language for those kind of device.
Gates: When you run applications it doesn't matter what language they're written in. You can use Java to write Windows CE. You can use Java to write for Windows. You can use Basic, you can use Cobol, you can use machine language.
We support all languages. What we've got in Windows CE is the graphics, the fonts, the Internet protocols, the browser capability, the video display, the basic template for the TV guide. And then you can run many kinds of applications like games.
If people write games, they'd never use interpretive languages because that would never be competitive. So they would pick languages like C in order to write those games. If you have something where speed doesn't matter you can use an interpretive language, so there are people who do that. There's a percentage of development today, now Visual Basic is by far the most popular, then you drop down to C, then you drop down to Cobol and today maybe 8% of the world uses Java as a development language. The majority of those people actually use Microsoft Java tools.
Ed: Another question about the Internet. Why don't you just build a separate Java Internet stack for Windows, like Quick Time is for certain multimedia applications. For example, I install a program that will not run unless Quick Time is installed.
Gates: You don't want software developers independently having to ship parts of the operating system. You know now how would the Help system work if you did it that way? How would the forms technology work? How would (laughs) any of the things that depend on Internet functionality work? How would AOL work? How would...today you just double click on the AOL icon..
Ed: I write something in Visual Basic, I have to install a VB Run 300. That's the same thing.
Gates: No, because there's nothing in the operating system that needs VB Run. You can get help without having VB Run. You can browse your disk without having VB Run.
Ed: That's because you based your Help functionality also on HTML.
Bill Gates: That's right. And that's a good thing. We based our shell on HTML, which is a good thing, we based our forms technology on HTML, which is a good thing. Should we use open standards or proprietary standards?
Ed: Open standards.
Gates: Hey, that's what we're doing. So, ....I apologize.
Ed: About Java? Um, Lotus is making a lot of noise about eSuite nowadays. Aren't you developing something like that just to be sure? Ah, Office for Java that can run on the IBM network device.. and so on.
Gates: We're enhancing Office. We're not developing something else. We're developing Office.
Ed: You're not writing a Java suite.
Bill Gates: (incredulous) Are you kidding? I mean..Did you see..hah...Corel's basically almost out of business because they tried to do that. Did you see what Netscape did with their Java product? They laid everybody off! Why? Look at the performance of that...look at the performance of the Corel Beta . Look at the performance of the Java Gator Beta. They fired all the people! Why?
Ed: Processes are becoming faster?
Bill Gates: Sloppy....in a world of competition you don't just say "oh, my product is slow go and pay a lot of money to buy more hardware". What you say is "I'm a software developer who likes to do great software. I'm going to make this as fast as I can."
Ed: Do you believe in Lotus eSuite?
Gates: I don't know what you mean. It's... it's not a religion.
Ed: Do you think they will sell it?
Gates: Have you met anybody who's using it? Honestly. Introduce me to them; I'll ask them what they think. I mean, there are hundreds of products that compete and have competed with Microsoft Office. Our customers, you know, we're doing a lot...listen to the feedback, do new things for those customers. My sense is that Office is doing very well. Um, and I haven't noticed. I've never had a customer bring up Esuite.
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