Tuesday, July 13, 2004

How Often Has He Been Right About Anything?

DVDs will be obsolete in 10 years: Bill Gates

Tue Jul 13, 1:23 PM ET

FRANKFURT (AFP) - DVDs will be obsolete in 10 years at the latest, Microsoft boss and founder Bill Gates (news - web sites) predicted.

Asked what home entertainment would like in the future, Gates said that DVD technology would be "obsolete in 10 years at the latest. If you consider that nowadays we have to carry around film and music on little silver discs and stick them in the computer, it's ridiculous," Gates said in comments reproduced in German in the mass-circulation daily Bild.

"These things can scratch or simply get lost."

Gates' vision of television of the future was: "TV that will simply show what we want to see, when we want to see it. When we get home, the home computer will know who we are from our voice or our face. It will know what we want to watch, our favourite programmes, or what the kids shouldn't be allowed to see."

Gee, Billy, don't forget to mention that while you can buy a DVD today and watch it over and over and over again for years to come, having only paid for it once, in your scenario, we'd all have to pay you $5 every time we wanted to watch "Kangaroo Jack." And while I can get that super-special DVD of that movie that I and no one else liked, in the Gatesian future, I'd be out of luck since I'd have to hope that someone somewhere wanted to devote the server space to store it and the bandwidth to transmit it. Who'd bother? Especially when you can make money hand over fist from "Kangaroo Jack."

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Billy-Boy's prediction is awfully vague -- will the TV content be streaming or stored? Could I conceivably buy a movie the way I can buy an album off of iTunes today? I own the file, despite its future availability or unavailability. (I assume that the music I've bought from iTunes is mine for as long as I care to keep it. I don't have to relinquish any of it if, say, the estate of Ray Charles decides that "What'd I Say?" shall no longer be available.)

Billy's been smart about two things, and they've made him rich. While I'm no fan of Windows, I think he was right to make the operating system separate from the computer. I'm a die-hard Apple user, but it does suck sometimes when you're stuck with the hardware you're stuck with. That's one. The other is Microsoft Office. And with that, it's less that they came up with a revolutionary word processor or spreadsheet, but that everything got locked into a proprietary format that required everyone else to have Microsoft Office to open it. Sure, there are ways around it. Most interoffice memos really don't need to be much more that a plain-text file, but the default setting is to save it as a Word document, and that's money in Billy's pocket. Just about everything else has been either vague or off the mark. MS was late to the internet because they were convinced that the future lay in CD-ROMs. (Ironic, when you consider that now the guy is saying that those little silver discs are archaic.) Sure they made up for lost ground, but by trampling everyone else and getting sued by the US government in the meantime. Smart Tags, .Net, Passport -- who needs 'em?

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