BUSINESS

Web services will drive digital decade — Gates

BANGALORE NOV. 13. Bill Gates wears two hats. He is Chairman and `head honcho' of the world's number one software company, Microsoft. He is also its "Chief Software Architect''; and it is in this second `avatar' that he appeared for the first time on his current Indian tour, speaking today in the Infosys campus, to over 2000 of Bangalore's `best and brightest' software engineers. And as the Vice Chairman of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), Som Mittal, pointed out, this also happened to be the largest Microsoft-certified community of programmers outside the U.S.

The message Mr. Gates brought was simple: The `digital decade' that would see the most startling changes that computers would make to human lives, was already upon us. And it would belong to companies — many of them Indian — who have the patience to learn and build the new architectures of the future. These would for the first time, allow all softwares to `talk' to each other, creating a new universe of seamless and startling services where your identity would be recognised and your preferences acted upon: phone calls will be sized up to decide whether you should be disturbed; computers will routinely talk to you and you could talk back; your mail will be automatically filtered of all junk — and ink would be something digital, allowing you to `write' on screens and edit your handwritten scribbles.

"Yet the world is underestimating how fast all this will happen,'' added Mr. Gates, "Many of the `impossible dreams' of computer and artificial intelligence experts will happen — only they will take a little longer.''

The recently-launched Tablet PC was a step in this direction, but more must happen to achieve the Net's goal of eliminating all friction, he felt. The name of the game is "Trustworthy Computing'' — the focus of Microsoft's $5 billion research initiative — and "we will surprise — no, amaze — the world,'' he promised.

Mr. Gates foresaw a central role for the Indian IT industry in this global gameplan because its quality education system was already turning out just the talents required. "A decade ago, it would have seemed fairly novel for a global company to come to India for software services and skills. Today it is plain commonsense. Tomorrow, many will insist that Indian companies should be considered first for any major task.''

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