"Free" hardware in 10 years, says Microsoft boss

Hardware will be as good as free in 10 years time, predicts Microsoft chief Bill Gates. Good software will still cost money though.

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By  Peter Branton Published  March 31, 2004

Hardware will be as good as free in 10 years time, predicts Microsoft chief Bill Gates. The chairman and chief software architect of the world’s largest software company said this week that as technology advances hardware costs will become negligible. Gates was speaking this week at the Gartner Symposium in San Diego, USA, when he made his remarks about the cost of hardware. “So 10 years out in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free,” he said. “I mean, I’m not saying it will be absolutely free, but in terms of the power of the servers, the power of the desktop machines, the network will not be a limiting factor, wireless technologies will have come in and created, whether’s it in the consumer space or in the enterprise space, ways that you’re connected all the time – 802.11, Ultra Wideband.” Gates, of course, may not be seen as exactly a disinterested observer on the topic of hardware cost. With Windows having a virtual monopoly on the desktop operating system space, Microsoft’s relations with hardware makers have frequently been stormy. Gates has also long advocated the supremacy of software in developments. “This decade we will rely almost entirely on software advances,” he told the Microsoft Middle East Developers Conference in Cairo in January. “Many of the Holy Grails of computer science that have been worked on for over 30 years will be solved in this 10-year period,” he said at the Gartner Symposium. “Speech being in every device that will be solved. Having a device that’s like a Tablet that you just carry around and use with ink, being able to record different interactions, being able to take business information and see it in a visual way so that you take sales data, forecasting data, get notified when something is surprising, this whole model structure will be important,” he added. While hardware may become as good as free, Gates was scathing about free software itself. “Yes, free software can do some stuff, but not the really good stuff,” he said.

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