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Gates: Hardware, Not Software, Will Be Free

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the gas-and-chocolate-will-be-free-too dept.

Microsoft 993

orthogonal writes "That's small-'f', not capital-'F' free: according to Bill Gates, "Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free -- I'm not saying it will be absolutely free --...." Gates expects this almost free hardware to support two of the longest awaited breakthroughs in computing: real speech and handwriting recognition. He further predicts -- ugh! -- that software will not be written but visually designed."

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Visual design (5, Insightful)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713172)


but who will visually debug the visual designer?


Re:Visual design (4, Insightful)

The One KEA (707661) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713189)

Indeed - and how likely is it that a visually-designed program will be even worse than a text program, considering that most programs will end up "looking pretty" in the program editor but act positively horrible for the enduser...

Re:Visual design (3, Funny)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713296)

considering that most programs will end up "looking pretty" in the program editor but act positively horrible for the enduser...
Sounds like Windows

Re:Visual design (4, Funny)

spektr (466069) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713195)

but who will visually debug the visual designer?

First person shooter. Kill the bugs, capture the features...

Re:Visual design (5, Funny)

SlashDread (38969) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713284)

OREILLY, The werewolf book: "Managing systems with the DOOM shell" subtitle: "How to kill -9 a zombie with your BFG."


Re:Visual design (5, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713314)

First person shooter.

This reminds me of a cool hack that uses Doom as a "process manager" [] . Killing a Doom baddie basically "kill -9"s the process.

Re:Visual design (2, Funny)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713323)

Alert: new jargon entry --> "visually design == code"

Thank you netizens, you may return to your regular visual designing jobs...

Re:Visual design (4, Funny)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713327)

It's turtles all the way down, my dear.

Yeah, right (5, Insightful)

michaelwb (612222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713174)

Is this kind of like in the 50s when some expert said that nuclear power was going to make electricity free?

Re:Yeah, right (1)

Enry (630) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713186)

And nukular bombs could be used for mining and creating canals.

Re:Yeah, right (5, Funny)

inertialmatrix (675777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713275)


Screw the 1950's promise of free electricity. Where the hell is my dishwashing, breakfast making, stainless steel life sized Robot?!?!

I want Robots!

Re:Yeah, right (2, Funny)

michaelwb (612222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713306)

Well, I'm still waiting for flying cars and personal jetpacks! I, for one, feel ripped off!

Re:Yeah, right (3, Funny)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713347)


It's hanging out with your happily house-chained June Cleaver 1950's wife in your fully mechanically automated home of the future!

Product costings from richest man in world? (4, Funny)

quinkin (601839) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713175)

Somehow I don't think I will be taking Bill's word for it...


Re:Product costings from richest man in world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713274)

maybe someone should point out that he isn't the richest man in the world for being stupid

I dunno, he got some of it right... (2, Informative)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713340)

...although he's a bit behind the curve. For example:

He [...] predicts [...] that software will not be written but visually designed

He's just predicted Visual BASIC post factum. Whoopee. (-:

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713176)

... so where's mine?

Re:fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713272)

YOU FAIL IT! You get none because YOU FAIL IT!

Free (5, Insightful)

n9uxu8 (729360) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713182)

Heck...if I made Bill's salary, I'd already think of hardware as free. In any case, if I was running a company and had global influence, what better model could there be than to dictate that the hardware required to run my product should be (virtually) free, but that my product is too valuable to be expected to be given away. DAve

Re:Free (5, Insightful)

jtwJGuevara (749094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713230)

This might be what he is getting at here. I'm still a youngster and didn't get into computing until the mid 90's, but from what I know the idea used to be the opposite - that software came free (little f) or at very little cost to benefit the very highly priced hardware components that were needed. Apparently Bill is going the reciprocal route and wants the hardware to come free or at a very inexpensive cost to support his high priced software. This would only make since in his vision since such a scenario would result in better bottom line numbers for Microsoft and the evil organization potentially has enough power over the long term to do such a thing.

X-Box? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713184)

How else are they going to shift more X-Boxes?

Already is free... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713187)

If you're Bill Gates.

Please Bill.. (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713188)

Nice try, Bill.

He's saying the tangible parts of the system (the hardware) will be virtually free while the freely duplicated software will not be. Fabrication plants cost millions, each chip has a real cost, each resistor has a real cost. Software, once written, can be copied countless times..

You'd think Bill had a vested interest in all this..

Re:Please Bill.. (4, Insightful)

Alomex (148003) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713242)

Yet, hardware has gone down in price from where it was in the mid 80's while software has gone up.

Re:Please Bill.. (4, Funny)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713319)

So what Billy boy is saying is that the price of his software will be so high, that hardware will appear to be free. Damn you DRM....


Re:Please Bill.. (1)

costas (38724) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713288)

Yes, he has a vested interest, but there are also a few precedents that support his position: namely mobile phones and game consoles. The hardware is not truly free but the software (incl. the service associated with the device) isn't.

Re:Please Bill.. (3, Interesting)

RoLi (141856) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713346)

He's saying the tangible parts of the system (the hardware) will be virtually free while the freely duplicated software will not be. Fabrication plants cost millions, each chip has a real cost, each resistor has a real cost. Software, once written, can be copied countless times..

Yeah, I also thought this.

But before the Linux-era, Billy was actually correct: At DOS-times, computers cost about 5000$, while DOS itself was less than 100$ (full version) IIRC. Today computers typically cost less than 1000$ but Windows XP (full version, crippled) costs 200$ or (full version, uncrippled) 300$.

On Windows-servers the ratio of the total system price which is going to Microsoft is even higher.

Also, Microsoft is doing much more against piracy these days (WPA, BSA-audits, etc.) than 20 years ago, which de-facto translates into yet another price increase.

Even though Bill Gates seems to have the delusion that this can go on like nothing happened, he is wrong: On servers, Microsoft already feels the heat from Linux and the desktop domination already shows some cracks.

Already now ? (4, Funny)

S3D (745318) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713190)

I have suspicion that some of the Microsoft software not written but visually designed already now. Considering its quality.

Hrmmmm.... (4, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713191)

Dell (and other box manufacturers) cannot be happy about such a statement. After all, their entire business model is dependent upon making a profit assembling wrappers for different flavors of Windows. So, even though they tried with Linux to diversify somewhat and protect themselves some time ago (only to be spanked back by Microsoft), their fortunes are irrevocably tied to the success (or failure) of Microsoft.

I suppose that this could be construed as the ultimate embrace and extend (then smother) approach though, right? Get a huge number of companies to support your position and build your company and then overnight, take all of their business revenues over in one way or another.

As for Gates predilection for predictions..... I would like to see fewer grandiose predictions (although speech recognition and tablets and visual programming are decidedly not grandiose and are in fact products shipping and under development by a number of companies) and more fundamental focus on making Microsoft products suck less.

Re:Hrmmmm.... (2, Insightful)

bitchell (159219) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713238)

"Dell (and other box manufacturers) cannot be happy about such a statement"

Surly such a statement would mean that Microsoft are planning to buy dell and give ther stuff away, locking people into windows forever and ever. Oh wait people are already locking into windows forever and ever.

Re:Hrmmmm.... (0)

1SmartOne (744638) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713282)

This is a perfectly good point. What he's saying to the industry is you'll be giving your shit away but me, I'll be charging people mega bucks for the software.

This is a ploy to manvuer into an area where he's protecting himself, saying I'm not going to be free you are. Nanana.

Go cry to your momma Bill!

Pfft. (2, Funny)

fruity1983 (561851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713193)

The only software I want visually designed ten years from now is my holographic pr0nography.

Microsoft leading the way (4, Insightful)

neoform (551705) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713194)

Of course, microsoft isn't in the hardware market, so they can say whatever they want.

Re:Microsoft leading the way (2, Funny)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713233)

I don't know, I hear some of their hardware runs linux []

What this could mean, is that they plan on actually giving xboxes away, instead of just selling them at a (small) loss.

Re:Microsoft leading the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713234)

I have a Microsoft mouse and keyboard. They also use to make a MS Phone years ago. And they have those Sidewinder Joysticks. Oh, and there's that little XBox thing they have.

Actually ... (2, Interesting)

willtsmith (466546) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713309)

Microsoft DOES sell X-Box AND Human Interface Devices. They're certainly not giving THOSE away. Though if Microsoft could get enough royalties of games, I could see them giving X-Box away.

In the future, my desktop will cost $20 and my Intellimouse will cost $200. Go figure ;-)

Re:Microsoft leading the way (1)

ash*embers (725483) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713331)

But M$ IS in the hardware market. At present, they make everything but full computers. If they plan to buy super quantities of hardware and low-ball the manufacturers like Wal-Mart does, I could see where this comment might be true, but it would attempt to make Silicon Valley & the Oriental manufacturing plants into sweatshops, and that WOULD be a feat that us consumers might blindly buy into, which would be sad if it worked. It probably would also mean mere semi-stable computers (given the conditions would have to be of lesser quality than at present, or hardware with less or no expensive cache memory in the places that matter - Remember the Palladium or the Champ hard drives?). Ugh!

Beer (0)

Bombah (572185) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713198)

What about the free beer?

I hope not (2, Interesting)

krumms (613921) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713199)

I really hope he's wrong. If software development becomes too much more "point-and-click", I'll have devoted my life so far to obsolescence

Re:I hope not (5, Insightful)

Eagle5596 (575899) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713351)

This is why you need to study computer science, rather than "programming". Programming is a skill that can be useful, but is, by its very nature, transient. Remember, at one point in time, auto mechanics were considered a very skilled white collar position.

Computer Science on the other hand, is a mathematical discipline which involves working out how to do things better, faster, and with less energy. It's about algorithm design, and ways in which to make a computer most efficiently process mathematical representations. It'll be useful far beyond the use of general "coding".

Coding itself is becoming more and more prevalent. I have many friends who aren't even scientists who know how to code, and were even required to for their humanities classes (from English, to History, to Foreign Language). This is a good thing, IMHO. Coding is a great general purpose skill.

Don't devote your life to the practice of programming, devote it to understanding why certain things work better, and how to further refine our techniques of computation. Work on understanding the hardwaresoftware interface, and you open up all kinds of new fields, from embedded engineering, to robotics.

Take the hint from the majority of good Universities who teach computer science, where you are simply expected to pick up a language in your spare time, because that aspect is secondary to the theory, and the easier of the two.

Another Quote (1, Funny) (722366) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713200)

640k should to be enough for anybody.

Re:Another Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713308)

$640 million should be enough for anybody.

Re:Another Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713338)

"The obvious mathematical breakthrough [to break modern encryption] would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers."

-- Bill Gates from "The Road Ahead," p. 265.

Uh huh... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713203)

And this from the "visionary" who said the Internet was a fad.


All this on 640K? (2, Funny)

Marty200 (170963) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713207)

How much stock can you put in his predictions?


Re:All this on 640K? (5, Funny)

slipgun (316092) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713219)

How much stock can you put in his predictions?

About 640,000 shares - should be a big enough investment for anyone!

Bill Gates (-1, Troll)

pedicabo (753738) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713211)

I think that this is very naughty of Mr Gates. ( Will this improve my Karma?) Er... exactly what is this Karma?

Bill is right (2, Insightful)

coldtone (98189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713217)

Paper is almost free, it's whats on the paper that has value.

Re:Bill is right (1)

The One KEA (707661) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713251)

That sound suspiciously like some of the things said by some OSS advocates: "Software is free, it's the content created with it that has value."

Bill Gates + free (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713218)

To the richest man in the world, everything must seem damn near free. Thats a retarded comment since he even says "not absolutely free".

Yeah, ok (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713223)

And who has a vested interest is software not being fre....oh

Software will never be easy (5, Insightful)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713225)

Even if software development becomes putting lego blocks together, it's not going to make specifying algorithms, keeping track of data structures and debugging any easier.
Billy should know better.

Re:Software will never be easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713328)

Really now...

Out of curiosity, have you developed anything recently with, say, C++, Java, or any of the .Net technologies?


Now, have you developed anything on the same platform in machine code?

Enough (5, Funny)

n9uxu8 (729360) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713226)

"Many of the holy grails of computing that have been worked on over the last 30 years will be solved within this 10-year period, with speech being in every device and having a device that's like a tablet that you just carry around,"

For the last time, Bill...I still don't want a tablet pc!!!!!


Re:Enough (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713244)

I'll have your tablet then. I love it.

tab tab tab tab,
tab tab tab tab
tablet pc! tablet pc!

Ugh? (2, Interesting)

Dwonis (52652) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713227)

Ugh? Why ugh? I can see why visual programming might not be all that practical, but if someone did manage to develop a visual programming system, why would it be so bad?

It's no different than using scripting languages, really; it'll have its own set of trade-offs.

Re:Ugh? (1)

supermojoman (699985) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713318)

From my own observations, it seems people have an even harder time making diagrams of their software than they do just writing the software. Why, I have a very talented programmer right across the hall from me who struggles to even make a flowchart. Despite that fact, his programs are very well designed.

'Course, that's just one perspective. Maybe visual programming is easier for some or whatnot.

Ah, visual design in VB (3, Insightful)

dupper (470576) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713229)

Where your Pong program runs through 14 levels of OLE and runs at 3 FPS.

yes and... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713232)

... 640 KB ought to be enough for everyone !

visual....oh sooo purdy!! (0, Funny)

Diotallevi (688468) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713237)

seee WHEN everything goes "visual" all of you c/unix fanboys will have to actually do some real programming. .net is real programming!! :P

I can imagine how (5, Insightful)

Sumocide (114549) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713239)

With the help of Trusted Computing/Palladium. Like portable phones today, which may have a SIM lock and can only be used with a certain provider.

You'll get free TCPA enabled hardware but it'll only let you run software by a certain company, software you'll have to pay for.

He's said this before! (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713240)

Didn't he say, about 10 years ago, when asked if software should be free "...and hardware too.". I think he was joking then, though.

Yeah, yeah, yeah... (5, Insightful)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713241)

And Bill Gates frequently talks out of his ass. I seem to recall that the Web wasn't important (and then we got IE a year later), that MS Bob was going to make computers usable by everyone, and that no one would need more than 640K of RAM.

In related news: (0, Redundant)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713243)

640K ought to be enough for anybody.

Visually designed... (5, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713246)

> He further predicts -- ugh! -- that software will not be written but visually designed.

"Let's start with a blue background that fills the whole screen..."

Of course (5, Funny)

Wizard of OS (111213) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713247)

Of course, if you'r stock is worth a few billion dollars, the cost of hardware is 'almost free' :)

visually designed software (2, Interesting)

brejc8 (223089) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713250)

Strange that the only area where we had originaly visual design has now almost completely moved to writing. I am thinking of hardware design CAD where the entire industry now uses VHDL/Verilog instead of schematics.

The reasons were because its is easier to CVS/grep/replace...

Mr 640k and unimportant internet (5, Insightful)

willtsmith (466546) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713253)

Wow another great prediction from the anti-psychic Bill Gates.

Sorry Bill, but software is far more replicable than hardware. It's the SOFTWARE that is becoming more free as we go along.

As far as visual goes, I don't think that's correct. He's envisioning a workflow type application for controlling logic. Diagramming most code is far more difficult then simply writing it. 4GL is a pipe dream.

I DO believe that future programmers will be more like carpenters. High levels of modularity will make custom software construction as practical as cutting and nailing/gluing/screwing together the components down at Home Depot. Programs that ARE sold will be far more extensible (plugin enabled) with managed code.

The future of software is changing. As usual, Gates doesn't have a clue. He was right about ONE thing 30 years ago. He swindled the owners of Q-DOS and IBM. He's been riding that ever since.

Nice... (1)

Cheo (730562) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713259)

but, why hardware? Ahh...because he does profit from it. What the heck, let all hardware vendors go down just pay for software, must be his thought.

It is like he is saying that cars and trucks will be free, just pay for the gasoline, which he happens to sell.

And hardware vendors still support this insane man!

What has the world come to!

That proves it (1)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713266)

Bill Gates is on Crack
He's got it backwards, software will be free but the hardware (with the encrypted firmware) will cost an arm. OSes will be embeded into the hardware.

I wonder what it's like to be in Billys head, must be an icky place to be...unlike the twisted chaotic world that is in my head

Interesting.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713267) hardware? If thats the case...our economy will be screwed, not helping out the ever weakening american dollar. I mean, just imagine it? Yeah, you see how mindless people are when they buy these dell computers off TV because it has a
'Pentium 4' Processor,so it MUST be good >_> Bleh,if hardwares free,how will advancements ever be made in it -_- You can't make new hardware without money,and the good hardware will most likely rise in price...really not helping the poor geeks out here ;o; Bill doesnt know what hes talking about,he doesnt have to worry about running out of cash,I personally think its nonsense.

Bill's finally lost it. (1)

Asprin (545477) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713268)

Waaaaaay too much time in the outback, there, Bill - you're starting to sound like Larry Ellison.... maybe even Howard Hughs.

Actually, on a more serious note, this just reinforces my suspicion that Steve Ballmer is really the guy running things over there - he's the guy we should really be blaming for all the FUD.

Cars (1)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713269)

Well sure, I can see where Bill is going here. I mean, Detroit is practically giving away cars now that the manufacturing process is so advanced and therefore the cost to make them is so cheap.

free ? (1)

mirko (198274) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713271)

So, he means that there will be not design, production, maintenance or transport costs associated with hardware ?

This is strange.

But I somehow like the idea of the visually designable software, even if I do not think this will be a global model (I can accept the idea of visual oop but I have more problems imagining coding in visual-lisp or whatever...).
This however illustrates tomorrow's clocksmiths a nice way.
So, take the vision cautiously for what it is : a direction, not a replacement.

Visual Design is prone to problems (2, Funny)

akiaki007 (148804) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713281)

Simply because sometimes you can't control what runs through your mind. Say one day you're bored and you start thinking about games, your ex (perhaps games with your ex), about the conversation you had last night with your friend, or about the stupid things you did when you got drunk last night, and the next thing you know, you've got yourself with your ex in some crazy sex position on the screen or perhaps a picture of you hanging onto the wall relieving yourself because you forgot to go at the bar before going home...and your boss walks by. "But I was just doing work....Please don't fire me!"

Yeah, I'm all for visual designing :-D I come up with some great software. As always, the porn industry will be the first industry to embrace this new technology.

Gillete model, Consoles, Printers etc... (4, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713285)

Just like Gillette virtually give away their shaving handles and printers cost next to nothing they're going towards making PCs like games consoles.

What is worrying is you can only succeed if you make you product unable to be used for anything else. So for games consoles you have to make it near impossible for anyone else to be able to write software (especially free software) for the device. For printers you need to make sure that nobody else can supply ink.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, you pay one way or another. If the hardware is next to free then the software will be subsidising it. The problem is for this to work for Microsoft they need a PC platform that can't run Linux, so I can see that their inroads into the BIOS, DRM etc... (see XBox for the beginnings of an implementation) are quite worrying.

Of course there will never be a situation where there won't be an x86 platform that can't run Linux, it is too popular in Japan, India and China.

Re:Gillete model, Consoles, Printers etc... (1)

Oz0ne (13272) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713354)

People often compare the "Gillette" model to the computer industry, specifically with printers and games.

On some levels the analogy makes sense: you get the "base product" cheaply then are inclined to be a repeate customer generating continuous revenue for the company. On other levels, this is RETARDED.

Razor handles are a chunk of plastic. They do NOTHING. They're just a handle, a mounting point for the blades. Do you really think they're losing anything? They cost less to make than the blades do, of COURSE they're giving them away.

You can't really compre a chunk of plastic to a printer or gaming console. For hardware, it's a marketing tactic. For Gillette it's... nothing!

My dad always said: (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713292)

BEWARE of monopolists bearing free gifts!!!

Kinda like what Gillette does (1)

borius (711380) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713299)

They give you a free razor, but the razor-blades cost a lot.

Similary, Billy will give you some very cheap mass-produced chip to play with, but tax you heavily for the software to actually do anything... We can see this happening today with computers getting cheaper and cheaper and Windows being kept at an artifically high price level.

Re: Gates: Hardware, Not Software, Will Be Free (1)

manavendra (688020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713301)

1981: 640KB (RAM) ought to be enough for everyone.
-- Bill Gates.

Bill, you so funny. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713307)

Lol, of course Gates would say that. He's an idiot to think anyone would believe that. He's only trying to protect a dying method of creating software. Something that will eventually be marginalized to a niche group.

How does he propose OEMs to recoup their costs? Now if someone was to figure out how to open source hardware like open source software, then perhaps. In the end though, someone has to foot the bill.

Perhaps.. (1)

sirdude (578412) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713310)

Only if this hardware is running his software... :S But I dare say that he's close to the truth though.. While open source will be the norm, I can't see large scale releases of free software still around in about 10 years time.. Some action is bound to be taken on it due to the intense lobbying that is taking place as we speak to do just that..

He's right, but it doesn't mean it's a good thing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713311)

He practically gives away the X-Box already. The downside of course will be the future "renting" of your software licenses. The 99 cents a month for Word, add 99 cents for Excel, oh your OS is 4.99/mo ... The big fear of course is that in his model, he'll have all the leverage to extort money from Joe User and charge rediculous amounts of money. Which will only result in another class-action suit, legislation, yro articles, etc.

And, yes, there are plenty of languages where you program visually. But when you want to change something? Ugh. Instead of being able to insert a line of code, you have to move the next 5000 symbolic representations manually. Heaven forbid you want to add more. And then you have to fix all your arrows so you can tell what's going on again. Worse yet if there was some novice to ever touch it, then it looks like someone used silly string in your IDE.

NOT a good thing for large projects, easy as it is to think abstractly with that tool. Shorter learning curve, though, for small scripts and mini-apps.

Free hardware. Riiiiiiiiiight. (3, Insightful)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713313)

And what onerous restrictions will I have to agree to to receive and use said free hardware?

How many laws will be purchased be the large companies so Cuecat-esque hardware EULAs will actually have teeth and be enforceable?


Bill's predictions... (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713317)

This coming from the man who thought the internet wasn't important and that 640K should be enough for anyone.

My prediction - in the next few years, perhaps as early as 2005 - Microsoft are going to start posting declining profits. The financial press is going to be shocked and say no one saw it coming.

Puhleeeez...... (4, Insightful)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713320)

Hardware costs will fall sharply within a decade to the point where widespread computing with speech and handwriting won't be limited by expensive technology, Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) Chairman Bill Gates (news - web sites) said on Monday.

This looks like a quote from 10 years ago talking about today. In '93, an "entry level" PC cost upwards of $2000. Today, an entry level machine that is far more capable costs only 10% of that. Not to mention that the $200 price tag represents a now miniscule fraction of most people's income.

I would say that hardware is already "free" when compared to software. This is becuase you can buy a $200 machine (real tangible manufacturing cost per unit) and put a $200 copy of Windows (with no real production cost) on it. I am sure that the hardware prices can go lower, but hardware is already a commodity. Software has yet to become a true commodity.

Visually designed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713321)

I don't know about the rest of the world, but I get great satisfaction from writing programs that solve their problem in a fast, efficient manner. C is a great language for this, because as everyone knows, it's small and fast (if you code it right!). I just can't see small, fast programs coming from a graphical programming interface.
Now, I can see people coding low-use applications with LabView-type programs that try to understand the programmer's intent, but I can't see high-performance games, database systems, servers, operating systems, compilers, etc. being coded visually.

been there, didn't do that (3, Insightful)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713332)

Several years ago (more than I care to admit), where I work, the mainframe manufacturer offered free hardware if we would continue to pay the software licenses. Free hardware meant an entirely new mainframe, ten years younger than what we already were running on.
Now we're running on Unix, and saving money. Bill's just blowing smoke, telling us his dreams.

My prediction... (0, Redundant)

jvollmer (456588) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713333)

Ten years out, Microsoft will be a shadow of its
former self, and Gates & Ballmer will be
wondering what the hell happened.

If it's not Consolidated Lint, it's just fuzz!

Visual Software Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713339)

As a proud Anonymous Coward, I have to agree with Bill on this one *shudders*.

Think of what the coolest game engine will be in say, 20 years. Think of the exteme detail it will have. Coefficients for the draft in the room to affect the specific rippling of your flowing cloak and the exact self-shadowing on the weapon your holding in you hand, which has polygons for veins that move with your movement, and expand or contract based on the virtual adrenaline in your system.

That sounds pretty overkill, but this is 20 years from now. If we remain at the limits of human programmers working in SimpleText or Notepad, the average game engine will take decades to write. Unless.... and heres the interesting part. Imagine that once we get standard written code down rock-solid for a visual design program. Now you want to create the "player" object. All you have to do is something like file... create object and when you want to add a new atribute, you right click the object or some such and start filling in the fields.

This could revolutionize the speed at which software is written (which today is probably the biggest bottleneck in the development of new games, not hardware).

Actually, there is something starting to resemble this in BlueJ (which im working on sitting in CompSci right now).

There's my .005 phennig. WHEW

Corrections (1)

hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713341)

shitty hardware will be free....the good stuff will cost you money.

Of course (1)

Bender Unit 22 (216955) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713343)

If the manage to tie the computer down with DRM and the like, they can apply the game console trategy to your computer and for all of those who just wants a service, a function it might be fine, but for those of us who likes to open up the hood, it would be hell. Except for those, of course, who sees the challenge of hacking it despite it would be breaking the law.

Wishful thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713345)

I might be jaded, but my take on this is Microsoft has to fight the growing impression that software is getting cheaper. Therefore, Microsoft as a software company has to preach the opposite. Realistically, hardware manufacturing will level out as environmental policies make it more expensive to produce hardware in second and third world countries. At some point, you just can't slash production cost by 50%. I'm guessing we are already near that threshhold and manufacturing efficiencies are near the practical limit.

Software on the otherhand is just beginning to reduce in cost. As the next generation of children grow up, the need for costly proprietary software will diminish and service oriented software may become the dominant model. Of course this is all guessing and full of BS. The cost of application servers will gradually lower in cost, but the service contracts will probably grow to offset the difference. I wonder if Microsoft is afraid of change and feels they have reached a size where rapid change is painful.

A step backwards? (2, Insightful)

dspfreak (666482) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713348)

He further predicts -- ugh! -- that software will not be written but visually designed.

Just like programmable logic! Errr, wait. It seems like (visual) schematic capture is what gets used if you don't have a real FPGA designer, so somebody has to wear a new hat that doesn't know (textual) languages like VHDL or Verilog. I don't know anyone who knows VHDL or Verilog that would want to do a design in schematic capture.

So if the same thing will apply, people who don't know how to program will use graphical programming, and people who do will write real code. Graphical programming won't be the only (or best) way to go, it will just be more approachable.

Maybe we'll be lucky and soon this will be an easy way to separate the wheat (real computer scientists and software engineers) from the chaff ("coders" who want the easiest way to make a few bucks).

Hardware AND software will be free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8713349)

Just wait. From the delusional department.

The Eyes Have IT (1)

qw(name) (718245) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713352)

Everyone knows that Pretty = Productive...

Visual Studio (2, Funny)

Bigby (659157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713355)

But I thought Visual Studio .NET let you "visually design"? So he's saying that I paid $1,800 for just a compiler and debug tools?

this is *his* vision.. (2, Insightful)

psycho_tinman (313601) | more than 10 years ago | (#8713356)

For Microsoft and for a lot of other companies, I think the realization has dawned that concentrating on hardware is a losing proposition .. (Hello, Sun ? are you listening ? Maybe you know better than these guys). As a counterpoint, though, I'd like to offer Apple and their iPod/iTunes strategy. Offer software on the cheap to push out the hardware..

You may upgrade your machine once every 6 months to an year.. However, your software would be service oriented, so you'd be bled dry as updates/small missing features and patches were charged for. A constant stream of revenue, with margins that can't be squeezed out due to competing manufacturers and improving manufacturing processes. A steadier way of earning revenue, if you will. This is what I would imagine Microsoft to want.

Here's the problem, though. The free software genie has been let out of the bottle. Just like the lowered price on the XBox made several people (myself included) think about buying one for a low cost machine and installing Linux on it, if there is a free software alternative that will run on this free hardware, you will get people using it. Ultimately, this will just lead to stronger protection against "illegal" modifications to the software.. For example, if you get a PC free, you must run Windows on it, and never format it to install Linux.. something along those lines. He wants it. I personally do not. Cheaper hardware is good, but I want choice in what software I use and I don't think being locked into one company will offer me this.

I agree with his point about visual software though. VB was tremendously popular for that reason. Because it let people quickly design interfaces and software that sort of worked. For folks who don't do programming for a living (and maybe a few who do), the thought of whipping out something that they can actually use on their own computer is a tremendously appealing notion. More than anything else, Visual Basic helped a whole new bunch of people (who might otherwise have not programmed at all) get into the software industry. The problem is: who will write the server side software ? Who will perform the tweaks ? Who will administer and optimize and tune things ? The need for programmers and for code crunching won't go away overnight, and I doubt it will go away at all. There are advantages to textual representations (as opposed to visual ones) in existing tool support, and there are also advantages in that textual means of representing a problem work on many different paradigms (not just client interfaces).

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