The Bill Gates interview

An exclusive interview with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, on his first ever visit to the UAE.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  January 26, 2008

Bill Gates is in a rush. He is pacing up and down excitedly, acting more like the young, new CEO of a company with big plans, rather than one which has single-handedly changed the world over the last three decades.

"When Paul Allen and I founded Microsoft more than 30 years ago, our dream was to put a computer on every desk and in every home.

Simply put, technology is transforming the way we interact with each other and understand the world we live in.

"Today, about 1 billion people have a PC. That's a large number, but it's just a fraction of the world's 6.6 billion people," he enthuses, beaming with excitement.

By Gates' own calculations, Microsoft has a long, long way to go. And Gates himself, even though he is due to step down as chairman of the group in July, appears to be on a mission to manage as much change as he can in the next six months. This week marks his first ever visit to the UAE, with several more overseas trips planned in the coming months. Microsoft may have started with a whimper 30 years ago, but Gates intends to go out with a bang.

"People often ask me if we're nearing the end of the digital revolution - if technology progress is at a point of diminishing returns and the personal computer has reached the apex of its development. I believe the opposite is true," he says.

Gates adds: "In many ways, the incredible advances of the past few decades have really just laid the foundation for much more profound change. In the years to come, hardware will continue to improve, often in dramatic and surprising ways. Software will continue to advance as we develop new approaches to take advantage of multi-core processors, thread-level parallelism, expanded data storage, and more pervasive broadband access. Together, hardware and software will be the catalyst for advances during the next 10 years that will far exceed the changes of the last 30 years. Technology is increasingly changing the way people live - the way we share experiences and communicate with the people we care about; the way we preserve memories of past events; the way we access entertainment; the way we learn; and how we utilise healthcare. Simply put, technology is transforming the way we interact with each other and understand the world we live in."

It's hard to believe that this is the same Harvard dropout who in 1975 became interested in microcomputers and their platforms only after reading a copy of Popular Electronics magazine.

What next for Bill Gates?

After officially stepping down as chairman in July, Gates will concentrate full time on his philanthropy. In 2000, Gates and his wife founded the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It currently manages over US$33bn, and has been hugely involved in the development of vaccines for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller has been credited as a major influence.

Bill Gates and his father have met with Rockefeller several times and have modeled their giving in part on the Rockefeller family philanthropic focus, namely those global problems that are ignored by governments and other organisations.

In 2000, the Gates Foundation endowed the University of Cambridge with US$210m for the Gates Cambridge Scholarships. The Foundation has also pledged over US$7bn to its various causes, including US$1bn to the United Negro College Fund. According to a 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates gave away over US$29bn to charities from 2000 onwards.

These donations are often cited as having sparked a substantial change in attitudes towards philanthropy among the very rich, with charitable donations becoming more frequent.


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