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Gates gives his views on the future of software

Web services, speech recognition at the forefront

By Tan Ee Sze
July 5, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld Singapore - SINGAPORE -- Web services will have a "catalytic effect" on software development, speech recognition will go mainstream in three to four years, and search capabilities will feature richer, clearer interfaces, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates told developers during a recent trip here.
Addressing about 7,000 developers in Singapore, Gates described software as "the fastest-changing element" in a world of technology that is also evolving on other fronts. Hardware improvements are occurring at an "exponential rate" with marked increases in networking speeds and storage capacity, the availability of 64-bit computing on standard servers is paving the way for the technology to go mainstream with low-cost hardware, and a common architecture is emerging from the laptop to the server, he said.
Information will be available on portable devices, connected through wireless efforts in areas such as Wi-Fi and 3G. The phone will get richer, becoming an electronic wallet and connecting users to maps.
Even the elusive promise of speech recognition will be realized in three to four years, Gates said. He noted that in an artificial environment, the computer already comes close to humans in recognizing speech. What it does not quite have -- yet -- is the human ability to distinguish background noise from significant signals. But, pointing to the reduction in error rates, Gates predicted that the problems facing speech recognition will be solved in this decade.
Breakthroughs in software will come very quickly, Gates said. Microsoft has doubled its research and development budget in the past four years and now spends about $6 billion a year on R&D. And this is complemented by research by partner companies.
The main obstacle to this progress is security, he said. "We have to surprise people with our ability to tackle it," Gates said.
In its efforts to boost IT security, Microsoft is addressing the "who" piece -- making sure users of a system are who they say they are by using the directory and incorporating a higher degree of authentication; the "where" piece -- whereby systems connect only when they need to, with the exception of the mail or Web server; and the "how" piece -- tools to write secure code and to automate code quality assurance, identify code that is being written and keep it up to date.
Another area that Microsoft is addressing is to reduce the operations cost of existing systems in order to free up IT budgets for investment in new applications, Gates said.
In his speech, he also spoke about Microsoft's Dynamic Services Initiative, which allows software to be managed without much

Reprinted with permission from Computerworld Singapore. Story copyright 2012 Computerworld, Inc. All rights reserved.
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