Bill Gates on the iPhone

Ever wanted to ask a famous billionaire a question and have listened in vain to countless interviews with said person and urged the interviewer to ask the question you wanted?

I finally got my wish.

A few months ago I wrote here about how Bill Gates predicted the iPhone (he called it the “wallet PC”) 15 years ago . . . a full 6 years or so before Apple started working on their revolutionary product. I’ve always wondered how Bill felt about that . . .

Well thanks to Robin Lustig of Newshour on the BBC world Service I got an answer. Bill was doing an interview about AIDS (his foundation is one of the biggest campaigners for this disease) and at the end of the interview Robin presents Bill with an aural reminder of the notorious page 74 of The Road Ahead . . .  listen here (it’s at the 29 minute mark):

ROBIN: You wrote 15 years ago that you envisaged the day when we’d all be carrying something you called a wallet PC . . . . you were describing then what we now know as an iPhone. Why didn’t you make it?

BILL: Well Microsoft er, has had good vision, and er, certainly is working in that area. It’s great that other companies er like Apple and others are there and doing well too and you know phones arent’ doing everything that I talked about back then so there’s still opportunity to do something that goes beyond whatever’s popular now and Microsoft ‘ll be there as one of the companies trying to help people out.

ROBIN: But don’t you wish it was you that had made them and not Apple?

BILL: Well certainly there’s room in that business for a lot of success. Microsoft’s had a lot of success and now many others are too and the competition is gonna be a great thing for consumers.

What do you think?

Bill’s Predictions

15 years on from the publication of The Road Ahead, The Atlantic publishes their verdict on Bill’s predictions. I take issue with them on point #2, The Wallet PC

Verdict: Hit. Gates’s wallet PC is more or less today’s mobile smartphone with voice capability added.

What the Atlantic fail to mention here is that Bill plainly hoped Microsoft would be the one providing that capability. As I pointed out a few months ago this is an area in which Microsoft have ceded major ground to the likes of Apple.

What is interesting is point #6, The Internet & The Web . . Bill didn’t even see it comin’!

Has Microsoft dropped the ball?

Dick Brass is a former exec at Microsoft. He is careful to mention how well Microsoft is doing financially but in the month that Apple launched the iPad he writes about how the company has lost its way.

Microsoft has lost share in Web browsers, high-end laptops and smartphones . . .What happened? Unlike other companies, Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation. Read more