Bill Gates’ MVP Summit Keynote

Earlier this month, Microsoft hosted more than 1,700 of Microsoft’s Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) in Redmond for a week of closed-door meetings about future product roadmaps. The meetings also served to solicit feedback on all manner of areas from some of their most loyal supporters, and some of their harshest critics. I joined them for the week.

While most of the event is under nondisclosure, Bill Gates gave a keynote address on March 13, 2007, which has been transcribed publicly, so I’ll touch on some parts that I found interesting, from a communications standpoint.

Gates talked about his vision for meetings, which brought Microsoft Live Meeting and the Microsoft Office RoundTable device to mind. He talked about having "the software prepare a transcript of what was said" for a meeting. While clearly visionary, this causes us to speculate how far along Microsoft is in attempting to build speech-to-text transcription — perhaps for an upcoming release of Microsoft Live Meeting? Speech-to-text and text-to-speech will play a more important role in the next few years. Consider searching for email, either for operational or compliance reasons, and then think about the impact of being able to search voicemails and meeting recordings. Or think about the opportunities for real-time speech-to-text or text-to-speech conversion.

He went on to talk about how "Microsoft and others who do search and big Internet services are building data centers that today have hundreds of thousands and in the future will literally have millions of computers" for hosting of services such as backup and recovery or storage — bringing to mind the visions of hosted Exchange that we wrestled through back in the days of Exchange Mercury. (The Mercury release was going to happen between Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003, and ended up being folded into Exchange 2003.) Hosting hasn’t been forgotten by any means, and we will see a gradual shift from on-premise to hosted services and applications starting to happen sooner rather than later in the decade ahead. Expect to see services start to appear "in the cloud" one by one — backup, recovery, spam control, hygiene, and so on. We have already seen this trend begin with Exchange Hosted Services and Postini, for example.

And Gates spoke of a day when "there will be no PBX but it’s all done over the Internet, how will that look?" Indeed, how will that look? We are already seeing Microsoft making bold moves around the voice arena, and the PBX is already being talked about as a "legacy" device in some circles.

Change is a constant.

David Sengupta

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