Bill Gates is not afraid that Linux will steal Windows' crown.
Speaking during his California tour the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect told technologists, “Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that.
“I’m not saying, ‘This computer will go away’, but OS/2 was supposed to kill us.” Microsoft has seen other potential threats to its dominance come and go, Gates said. IBM, with 10 times as many employees as Microsoft, could not stop Windows with OS/2, he pointed out.
“[It] was said that Novell will kill us, Borland will kill us - and that makes my job interesting,” Gates said.
An member of the audience said that almost half the servers being bought today are running Linux. But Gates disputed the figure. “It is just not a right number,” Gates said. “Well over 50% of servers that are sold run Windows Server,” he insisted.
“First, start with the facts, then proceed from there,” Gates said, adding that Unix, not Windows, is being displaced by Linux.
“We do compete with Linux. The shift of Unix share to Linux has been dramatic,” he said. “[Linux will] wipe out a lot of the stuff that’s been out there down to very small numbers, [based] on current trends.” Windows and Linux will dominate the market , he said.
Unix lacked the advantage that Windows has in coming from one supplier with one set of instructions, Gates said.
Gates said not all situations suit grid computing, pointing out that it may not be economical to ship data far away for processing, because of networking costs and latency.
But grid is being done on Windows and Microsoft is building the notion of grid into its web services capabilities, he said. The company’s Beowulf project for clustering on Windows entails grid computing, he added.
The problem of spam was diminishing, Gates said, thanks to filters. “Spam is down by a factor of 10 from where it was a year ago.
“The bad news is this malware thing is so bad,” he said. Microsoft will provide a malware cure to address issues such as adware, he added.
Identity theft and phising need to be addressed through “info-card” technology he suggested, adding that password technology, meanwhile, needs to be succeeded by smartcard or biometric technology.
Gates also spoke about digital rights management, suggesting that licence fees will be used at the consumer level for accessing movies and music over the internet.
In software licensing, markets that had been used to getting Windows for free, such as China, Korea, and Hong Kong, are now moving over to licensing. “Fifteen years ago [in these countries], you didn’t buy software. Today, their compliance level is almost as good as the US,” Gates said.
Gates said he was surprised that technologies such as speech recognition and ink-based computing had been slow to take off, but he expected them to grow with the passage of time. He also predicted the gradual replacement of USB with wireless and wideband access technologies.
On electronic voting he said that voters demand a high degree of certainty with the technology. “We ourselves are not going after the e-voting market or the nuclear reactor control market,” Gates said.
Written by Infoworld staff
This was first published in October 2004