Gates touts interactive TV
(IDG) -- MONACO -- Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates told attendees of the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition (ETRE) conference that his company's bets on interactive TV are well-placed.
Having traveled here from Geneva to make his second major speech of the day in Europe, Gates ditched the suit he wore at Telecom 99 in favor of casual khakis and an open-collared shirt, and spoke about why television will play a big part in the future of computing.
"People can criticize Microsoft for supporting this TV thing for the past eight years, but it is a long-term bet," Gates said. "There is not any other software business that is as dedicated to the vision of the TV and the PDA [personal digital assistant] as we are."
The investment in WebTV has been a perfect fit for Microsoft on both a financial and human resources level, Gates added.
In outlining his vision of the future, Gates said user interfaces would soon have fewer commands. "We will evolve the ability of the computer to hint," Gates said, which will be useful for interactive TV applications.
Interactive TV will "have a strong role in the living room," Gates said. Advanced set-top boxes, digital music, digital photos, and video and the advancement of games will all soon change the home, he predicted.
Gates also said that handheld devices are the wave of the future and that keeping software between an individual's different devices synchronized will become the primary service for software companies like his.
Asked if his company's stock was overvalued, as Microsoft President Steve Ballmer asserted last month, Gates was careful to give a more cautious response.
"It's complicated. It should be complicated," he said.
In answer to a question about his large charitable donations, Gates said that he now spends about two-and-a-half days per month on his foundation work. "Philanthropy has a role in getting technology to spread around the world, but it's not so much technology but health that is the world issue," Gates said.
Laura Rohde is a London correspondent for the IDG News Service.
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