Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Meeting Bill Gates
From CNN Internet Correspondent Veronica De La Cruz

Bill GatesA 7-1/2 hour flight, a whirlwind tour of the show floor and a long night of editing may not be the best way to prepare for an interview with one of the most important people in the world, but that's how things work at the International Consumer Electronics show. CNN Internet Correspondent Veronica De La Cruz describes her meeting with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates...

We arrive in Vegas with just enough time to change some clothes and grab a quick shower at the hotel. Then we're off to cover the opening event, the official CES preview party.

I make my way out to the floor and take a quick look around. Immediately, I'm captivated.
There on the floor before me is my new found love: a Human Touch Zero-Gravity Massage Chair equipped with Accu-point detection. It's a massage chair made of soft black leather. The accu-point detector scans my back and finds the knots perfectly; I never even utter a word. The whole experience is earth-shattering and I'm determined to take my new love home, until I discover the price: $4,000.

My heart says "YES," but my wallet says "NO." I force myself to move on.

Another jog around the room and I find that I also adore the bright red design of the Ladybug I-pod Docking Station. I'm in awe of the technology behind Viable Inc's touch screen for the deaf and hearing-impaired and I'm riveted by the Invisible Shield, a clear skin that keeps your gadgets safe and scratch-free.

My producers realize it's getting late and we still have to go back to the hotel to edit our video piece. One last parting glance at my chair and I'm out the door.

The next morning my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Not a lot of sleep considering we were up really late trying to feed the video package back to Atlanta.

My mind wanders to my massage chair for a moment, but then I quickly shift focus to the present: my upcoming interview with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. I have just one hour until the interview and my mind races. What questions will I ask? What will he be like? Is he a nice guy? Is he a tyrant? Will he be a good interview or will he stare at me like I have two heads and I'm speaking in tongues? Watching the clock tick I realize I'm out of time and my crew is waiting for me downstairs.

Arriving at the Microsoft tent I'm pleasantly surprised. The place is crawling with Microsoft product and I find the people are nice and friendly. A publicist for Mr. Gates approaches me. His name is Chris and he wants to brief me on the parameters of the interview. I get ten minutes with Mr. Gates. I'm to keep my questions on topic. Any "off-topic" questions should be saved for last. I am sure they do this so I will run out of time during the interview before I ever get to the "off-topic" questions and therefore, Mr. Gates will never be subjected to them.

Walking up the stairs, Mr. Gates is sitting with a bunch of people. He stands, I shake his hand and give him a big smile. He returns his signature half-smile he's famous for. So far, so good. Seems like a really nice guy.

I sit down and the whole thing goes by like a flash, in fact, looking back I can't even tell you what I asked.

All I know is we discussed the future of technology. We talked about his future, as he steps down from the helm of Microsoft to shift his attention to philanthropy. I tell him my little brother lives in a virtual world and communicates almost solely through instant messenger and I'm worried that future generations might be socially stunted. Are we becoming too dependent on technology? Will technology cripple the social interaction of future generations?

Mr. Gates talks about his kids. He tells me they search online for dogs that need to be rescued and his kids beg him to adopt them. This is all good stuff. I love it, and for a split second, I forget that I'm sitting with one of the richest, most powerful and most successful visionaries in history.

The time flies by. My ten minutes are up. He stands and shakes my hand. "That was good!" he exclaims. He gives me his signature half-smile and even agrees to pose with me for a picture. What a rock star. He's made my day. Decades at the helm of Microsoft and ten minutes in a room with me -- and a conversation that will stay with me forever.

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