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Gates on Reddit AMA: Next-gen condoms, NSA, Bitcoin, his new role at Microsoft

He also praises CEO Satya Nadella during a Reddit online chat, saying he is 'off to a great start'

By Juan Carlos Perez
February 10, 2014 02:51 PM ET

IDG News Service - Bill Gates has hopes a better condom will reduce HIV infections, is optimistic about digital currencies' ability to help the poor, and trusts he'll be able to help Microsoft in his new role as technology adviser.

Those were some of the topics covered by the Microsoft co-founder in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) chat session Monday.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates (Photo: Reuters)

Gates' decision to participate in an AMA comes on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of its new CEO, Satya Nadella. Microsoft didn't hold a press conference to discuss the appointment or make any executives available for interviews yet, so the AMA session was the first time anyone from the company has answered questions from the public about the leadership change.

Asked about his new role at Microsoft, in which he'll be a technology product adviser, Gates said that he was "thrilled" that Nadella asked him "to pitch in" to ensure that Microsoft is "ambitious with its innovation."

"Even in Office there is a lot more than can be done," said Gates, who took on his new role while stepping down as board chairman.

He is particularly excited about how the cloud and new devices can help people communicate and collaborate in new ways.

"The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files -- it will be your history, including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up," said Gates, who later mentioned he's using a Surface 2 Pro, which "works well" for him.

He will also try to make sure Microsoft picks "ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them" and that he will "hopefully" encourage good work.

Regarding Nadella, Gates said the new CEO is "off to a great start" and "taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is -- strengths and weaknesses."

"A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways," he added.

His favorites projects at Microsoft were Windows and Office, which "defined the big success of the 1990s for Microsoft."

"Office connected to the cloud has a LOT of potential and we are off to a good start. Cloud Storage needs to be a lot richer though," he said.

Asked whether he views the PC as a "dead" device, Gates said that while the boundaries between different types of computing devices are blurring, there will still be a need for desktop computers, as well as for "wall devices."

"However, applications will be able to run across multiple devices including the whiteboard," he added.

Regarding the controversy over the U.S. National Security Agency's practices of spying on individuals, Gates said there is a role for government in trying to gather information to stop crime and terrorism. "I do think terrorism with biological or nuclear weapons is something we want to minimize the chance of," he said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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