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Vocapedia > Technology > PC > Microsoft, Windows, Xbox, Explorer, Bill Gates, Paul Allen





Bill Gates interview: How the world will change by 2030        Video        The Verge        22 January 2015


The Verge sat down with Bill Gates to talk

about his ambitious vision

for improving the lives of the poor through technology.


It just so happens that The Verge exists to explore that kind of change

— which is why Bill Gates will be The Verge’s first ever guest editor in February.


















wall computers        UK






surface computing        USA






tablet computer / tablet








Microsoft Surface tablet computer        2013







keyboard        USA






device / hardware products

Microsoft's Xbox game console and Surface tablets








Microsoft > operating system > Windows








Microsoft > operating system > Windows secret blueprint / source code





Microsoft's Windows 10



app-smart-the-best-of-windows-10-apps.html - NYT, Sep. 2, 2015








Windows 8

























upgrade to Windows 8











operating system > Windows 7









operating system > Vista








operating system > Windows XP



















browser > Explorer        USA



















Bill Gates.


Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images



Bill Gates Is the Most Interesting Man in the World

He’s everywhere,

this lavender-sweatered Mister Rogers for the curious and quarantined.


May 22, 2020



















As Satya Nadella becomes the new CEO of Microsoft,

company founder Bill Gates is moving from chairman to "technology adviser."


Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP


What Bill Gates' New Role Could Mean For Microsoft


February 05, 2014        4:10 PM
















Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates




































Microsoft co-founder Paul Gardner Allen        1953-2018











































Microsoft > Office








Google vs Microsoft






Apple vs Microsoft














As New iPad Debut Nears,

Some See Decline of PCs


March 5, 2012

The New York Times



The chief executive of Apple, Timothy D. Cook, has a prediction: the day will come when tablet devices like the Apple iPad outsell traditional personal computers.

His forecast has backing from a growing number of analysts and veteran technology industry executives, who contend that the torrid growth rates of the iPad, combined with tablet competition from the likes of Amazon.com and Microsoft, make a changing of the guard a question of when, not if.

Tablet sales are likely to get another jolt this week when Apple introduces its newest version of the iPad, which is expected to have a higher-resolution screen. With past iterations of the iPad and iPhone, Apple has made an art of refining the devices with better screens, faster processors and speedier network connections, as well as other bells and whistles — steadily broadening their audiences.

An Apple spokeswoman, Trudy Muller, declined to comment on an event the company is holding Wednesday in San Francisco that is expected to feature the new product.

Any surpassing of personal computers by tablets will be a case of the computer industry’s tail wagging the dog. The iPad, which seemed like a nice side business for Apple when it was introduced in 2010, has become a franchise for the company, accounting for $9.15 billion in revenue in the holiday quarter, or about 20 percent of Apple’s total revenue. The roughly 15 million iPads Apple sold in that period was more than twice the number it sold a year earlier.

In the fall, Amazon introduced the iPad’s first credible competitor in the $199 Kindle Fire. Although Amazon does not release sales figures for the device, some analysts estimate it sold about four million in the holiday quarter. Later this year, tablets from a variety of hardware manufacturers based on Windows 8, a new, touch-screen-friendly operating system from Microsoft, could further propel the market.

“Tablets are on fire, there’s no question about that,” said Brad Silverberg, a venture capitalist in Seattle at Ignition Partners and a former Microsoft executive, who hastened to add that he was speaking mainly of the iPad, which dominates current sales.

Tablets are not there yet. In 2011, PCs outsold tablets almost six to one, estimates Canalys, a technology research company. But that is still a significant change from 2010, the iPad’s first year on the market, when PCs outsold tablets 20 to one, according to Canalys. For the last two years, PC sales were flat, while iPad sales were booming. The Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook gave the market an additional lift over the holidays. Apple is banking on the tablet market. Its iPad brought in nearly 40 percent more revenue during the holidays than Apple’s own computer business, the Macintosh, did.

“From the first day it shipped, we thought — not just me, many of us thought at Apple — that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market, and it was just a matter of the time that it took for that to occur,” Mr. Cook of Apple said recently at a Goldman Sachs investor conference.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, estimated that Mr. Cook’s prediction would come true in 2017, but others contend tablets will be on top sooner than that.

For example, in a blog post on Friday, Horace Dediu, an analyst with Asymco in Finland, made a detailed argument that tablet sales would pass traditional PC sales in the fall of 2013. His projections rest heavily on an assumption that Apple will face more serious competition in the tablet market from Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Windows 8 and a wave of other devices based on Google’s Android, an operating system that has been mostly successful in the smartphone market.

Tim Bucher, an entrepreneur who has held senior positions at Apple, Microsoft and Dell, said tablet sales would “absolutely” pass those of PCs, a trend he argued would become even more pronounced as a younger, tablet-savvy generation ages.

“I think the older generation does not pick up on the way of interacting with the new devices,” Mr. Bucher said, contrasting older people with the next generation. “I don’t know how many YouTube videos there are out there showing everyone from babies to animals interacting with iPads.”

Where does that change leave the PC, the lowly machine that defined computing for decades?

At a technology conference in 2010, Steven P. Jobs, then Apple’s chief executive, heralded what he called the post-PC era and compared personal computers to the trucks that prevailed in the automobile industry until society began moving away from its agrarian roots. PCs are “still going to be around and have a lot of value,” said Mr. Jobs, who died in October. “But they’re going to be used by one out of X people.”

Even Mr. Cook in his recent speech said he was not predicting the demise of the PC industry, although he did say the iPad was cannibalizing some computer sales, more Windows PCs than the much smaller market for Macs. One category of PCs where that is especially true is netbooks, the inexpensive notebook computers that have had a steep decline in shipments in the last couple of years. “What the iPad is doing is taking growth away from the PC market that would have gone to a secondary or tertiary device,” said Mr. Dediu. “It’s not so much people are going to drop PCs. They’re going to add this additional device.”

Traditional PCs are not standing still. Boxy desktop computers are an ever-diminishing part of the PC business, while Apple’s MacBook Air and a category of Windows laptops with Intel processors called ultrabooks have reinvented traditional clamshell notebooks as superthin devices that turn on instantly like tablets.

Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 8 promises to shake up computer designs further. Microsoft and its hardware partners have shown laptops with keyboards that can be swiveled around or removed altogether, turning them into tablets.

“The tablet and PC markets are all going to blur,” said Tim Coulling, an analyst at Canalys. “We’re going to see a lot of form-factor innovation. We’ll be asking, What is a tablet and what is a traditional PC?”

    As New iPad Debut Nears, Some See Decline of PCs, NYT, 5.3.2012,






Just a Touch Away,

the Elusive Tablet PC


October 5, 2009
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — The high-tech industry has been working itself into paroxysms of excitement lately over an idea that is not exactly new: tablet computers.

Quietly, several high-tech companies are lining up to deliver versions of these keyboard-free, touch-screen portable machines in the next few months. Industry watchers have their eye on Apple in particular to sell such a device by early next year.

Tablets have been around in various forms for two decades, thus far delivering little other than memorable failure. Nonetheless, the new batch of devices has gripped the imagination of tech executives, bloggers and gadget hounds, who are projecting their wildest dreams onto these literal blank slates.

In these visions, tablets will save the newspaper and book publishing industries, present another way to watch television and movies, play video games, and offer a visually rich way to enjoy the Web and the expanding world of mobile applications.

“Desktops, laptops — we already know how those work,” said Brian Lam, editorial director of the popular gadget site Gizmodo, which reports and hypothesizes almost daily about these devices. Tablets, he said, “are one of the last few mysteries left.”

Tablet computers were first conceived as a way to supplant plain old paper, in the same way that PCs replaced the typewriter.

In 1993, Apple’s Newton MessagePad, with its expansive screen and stylus pen, became known less for its innovative features than for being lampooned in “Doonesbury,” which ridiculed the device for its flawed handwriting recognition. Steven P. Jobs killed the Newton when he returned to Apple in 1997.

Then in 2001, at Comdex, the industry trade show, Bill Gates introduced new Windows software for tablets with a bold prediction: within five years, he said, tablets “will be the most popular form of PC sold in America.” It didn’t happen, of course. Tablets running Windows sell only a few hundred thousand units a year, mostly in business fields like health care and financial services.

There were basic problems with these early tablets: they cost too much and did not do enough.

“Software engineers got ahead of the hardware capabilities,” said Paul Jackson, a consumer product analyst at Forrester Research. “But we may be finally getting to the point where the dreams and aspirations of those designers are actually meeting capable and reasonably priced technology.”

You can thank Moore’s Law and the immutable advance of technology for that. Integrated microchips now combine wireless connectivity and support for features like multimedia, GPS functions and rich graphics. They are also more energy-efficient.

At the same time, the iPhone and its imitators have demonstrated that new tactile touch screens work and that people are comfortable with them, in a way they never got accustomed to using earlier tablets and stylus pens.

“We darn well should be about ready to take advantage of this stuff. It’s time,” said Bill Buxton, a researcher at Microsoft who has been working on multitouch systems for 20 years, and has a comprehensive collection of tablets and touch screens he keeps in his office in Toronto.

The drumbeat of tablet product introductions has already begun. In June, Archos, a French consumer electronics company, began selling a small touch-screen tablet running Google’s Android software. Later this month, it will introduce another tablet that runs on Microsoft’s Windows 7, which has built-in support for touch screens.

“A road warrior doesn’t want to take a big clamshell netbook with him,” said Frédéric Balaÿ, vice president for marketing at Archos.

The industry blog TechCrunch has also commissioned its own Web tablet, called the CrunchPad, which it has said it will start selling later this year.

Despite its past bruises in the tablet business, Microsoft appears ready to try again. In September, images of a booklike Microsoft device called Courier, with two 7-inch color screens, surfaced on Gizmodo.

In an interview, Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, would not discuss that product in particular, but said the company devises such prototypes all the time, so it can take them to its hardware partners. Still, rumors of a Microsoft tablet computer sparked interest. “I got an e-mail from some customer who said, ‘I want that,’ ” Mr. Ballmer said.

Apple’s rumored tablet is the most highly anticipated of the lot. Analysts expect Apple to introduce it early next year — a sort of expanded, souped-up version of the iPod Touch, priced at around $700.

Last week, Apple rehired the original chief marketer of its old Newton, Michael Tchao, who was working at Nike. Mr. Tchao’s former Apple colleagues believe he will help market this new device.

Colin Smith, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment on the company’s recruitment or product plans. But Apple’s tablet will most likely have little in common with the Newton, which was essentially a personal digital assistant. The new crop of tablets is being viewed as more flexible — gadgets that combine elements of the iPhone, e-book readers like the Kindle and laptops.

Apple has been working on such a Swiss Army knife tablet since at least 2003, according to several former employees. One prototype, developed in 2003, used PowerPC microchips made by I.B.M., which were so power-hungry that they quickly drained the battery.

“It couldn’t be built. The battery life wasn’t long enough, the graphics performance was not enough to do anything and the components themselves cost more than $500,” said Joshua A. Strickland, a former Apple engineer whose name is on several of the company’s patents for multitouch technology.

Another former Apple executive who was there at the time said the tablets kept getting shelved at Apple because Mr. Jobs, whose incisive critiques are often memorable, asked, in essence, what they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom.

The success of the iPhone may have partially helped to answer that question. As of last month, developers had created 85,000 applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch — video games, social networking software, restaurant finders and more. Analysts believe that all those programs will immediately work on the new tablet while developers begin to tailor new software for the larger screen.

Despite the preponderance of apps, there is still the persistent question of whether regular people will really find a use for tablet computers. Smaller cellphones are increasingly multipurpose and fit nicely in a jacket pocket. And low-end laptops are inexpensive, run a full-fledged operating system and offer the luxury of a keyboard.

“I can imagine something like the iPhone with a much bigger screen being a gorgeous device with great capacity, but I don’t know where I would fit that into my life,” said a former Apple executive, who declined to be named because of Apple’s secrecy policies, but who anticipates an Apple tablet next year. “Those are the debates that have been happening inside Apple for quite some time.”

    Just a Touch Away, the Elusive Tablet PC, NYT, 5.10.2009,






PC Touch Screens Move Ahead


June 3, 2009
The New York Times


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — The computer industry has a lot riding on your fingers.

For years, companies have dabbled with the touch-screen technology that lets people poke icons on a display to accomplish tasks like picking a seat at an airport check-in kiosk. Apple elevated such technology from a novelty to a must-have feature on mobile devices with its iPhone. People can flip through pictures with a flick of a finger or make a document larger by pressing two fingers against the screen and stretching them out.

Now both personal computer manufacturers and software makers hope to do more with touch on larger devices by giving people a 10-fingered go at their screens.

“You don’t even operate your TV with two fingers,” said Amichai Ben-David, the chief executive officer of N-trig, which produces touch-screen technology for PC makers. “In order for this to feel really natural, you need more than two fingers for sure.”

The PC industry hopes the feature spurs sales. PC makers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell have been clobbered during the recession as struggling businesses drop computer upgrades to the bottom of their to-do lists. Consumers have shown more interest in new machines, but they are buying cheap, tiny laptops rather than decked-out goliaths.

H.P., Dell, Intel and Microsoft expect that when companies and consumers increase their spending, touch technology will be one of the things that nudge them to upgrade. Computers with the special screens will probably cost consumers about $100 more than standard machines.

H.P. has been selling a PC with an early version of touch technology. The $1,150 TouchSmart PC has been popular, H.P. says, particularly in kitchens as a family computer. But outside of science-fiction films, touch computers have been met with lukewarm reactions. Tabletlike computers that ship with plastic pens for marking on screens remain a niche in the overall PC market, as do pure touch machines. Mr. Ben-David said that about two million of about 300 million PCs sold last year were touch computers.

H.P. has already been pushing touch technology to large businesses. It sells a custom touch interface for both desktops and laptops. Customers can turn these machines into bespoke kiosks for, say, ordering merchandise at a sporting event or flipping through a menu while waiting at a restaurant.

The PC industry wants to make touch functions more sophisticated and widespread. On-screen objects could be twisted and turned with several fingers, mimicking the action used in real life. The next version of Windows from Microsoft, Windows 7, will usher in a new era of touch technology when it appears on PCs later this year, according to Mr. Ben-David. Backed by Microsoft, Israel-based N-trig uses a combination of software and sensors to create a special type of computer screen that can interact with pens and fingers. N-trig’s technology works by pumping an electrical signal through the screen. When a finger hits the screen, the electricity is discharged. Software interprets that to move graphics on the screen. The company claims that its technology works better on the larger displays of laptops and PCs since it handles many inputs at once.

Working together, Microsoft and N-trig have created a type of software interface that lets other companies add touch functions to their programs. Such touch software can handle lots of fingers hitting a screen at once rather than just relying on one or two digits, as most of today’s touch screens do.

N-trig hopes to build more momentum later this year, when three more PC makers are set to join H.P. and Dell as backers of the touch technology. It did not disclose the names of those companies.

The big question is whether companies can create software that makes touch useful rather than a mere curiosity.

Corel, which makes document and photo editing software, also plans touch products that rely on N-trig’s technology for Windows 7.

SpaceClaim, which makes software for designing objects in 3-D, has taken a business-oriented approach to touch. Its software, which will work with Windows 7, creates 3-D models that can be turned, pinched and altered via two-handed touches. Frank DeSimone, the head of development urges other software makers to try something new and stick with the technology rather than just replicating the functions of a mouse.

“A lot of people say they will support touch, but they do a disservice to everyone by not doing anything interesting,” he said.

    PC Touch Screens Move Ahead, NYT, 3.6.2009,






Intel Adopts an Identity in Software


May 25, 2009
The New York Times


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Intel has worked hard and spent a lot of money over the years to shape its image: It is the company that celebrates its quest to make computer chips ever smaller, faster and cheaper with a quick five-note jingle at the end of its commercials.

But as Intel tries to expand beyond the personal computer chip business, it is changing in subtle ways. For the first time, its long unheralded software developers, more than 3,000 of them, have stolen some of the spotlight from its hardware engineers. These programmers find themselves at the center of Intel’s forays into areas like mobile phones and video games.

The most attention-grabbing element of Intel’s software push is a version of the open-source Linux operating system called Moblin. It represents a direct assault on the Windows franchise of Microsoft, Intel’s longtime partner.

“This is a very determined, risky effort on Intel’s part,” said Mark Shuttleworth, the chief executive of Canonical, which makes another version of Linux called Ubuntu.

The Moblin software resembles Windows or Apple’s Mac OS X to a degree, handling the basic functions of running a computer. But it has a few twists as well that Intel says make it better suited for small mobile devices.

For example, Moblin fires up and reaches the Internet in about seven seconds, then displays a novel type of start-up screen. People will find their appointments listed on one side of the screen, along with their favorite programs. But the bulk of the screen is taken up by cartoonish icons that show things like social networking updates from friends, photos and recently used documents.

With animated icons and other quirky bits and pieces, Moblin looks like a fresh take on the operating system. Some companies hope it will give Microsoft a strong challenge in the market for the small, cheap laptops commonly known as netbooks. A polished second version of the software, which is in trials, should start appearing on a variety of netbooks this summer.

“We really view this as an opportunity and a game changer,” said Ronald W. Hovsepian, the chief executive of Novell, which plans to offer a customized version on Moblin to computer makers. Novell views Moblin as a way to extend its business selling software and services related to Linux.

While Moblin fits netbooks well today, it was built with smartphones in mind. Those smartphones explain why Intel was willing to needle Microsoft.

Intel has previously tried and failed to carve out a prominent stake in the market for chips used in smaller computing devices like phones. But the company says one of its newer chips, called Atom, will solve this riddle and help it compete against the likes of Texas Instruments and Qualcomm.

The low-power, low-cost Atom chip sits inside most of the netbooks sold today, and smartphones using the chip could start arriving in the next couple of years.

To make Atom a success, Intel plans to use software for leverage. Its needs Moblin because most of the cellphone software available today runs on chips whose architecture is different from Atom’s. To make Atom a worthwhile choice for phone makers, there must be a supply of good software that runs on it.

“The smartphone is certainly the end goal,” said Doug Fisher, a vice president in Intel’s software group. “It’s absolutely critical for the success of this product.”

Though large, Intel’s software group has remained out of the spotlight for years. Intel considers its software work a silent helping hand for computer makers.

Mostly, the group sells tools that help other software developers take advantage of features in Intel’s chips. It also offers free consulting services to help large companies wring the most performance out of their code, in a bid to sell more chips.

Renee J. James, Intel’s vice president in charge of software, explained, “You can’t just throw hardware out there into the world.”

Intel declines to disclose its revenue from these tools, but it is a tiny fraction of the close to $40 billion in sales Intel racks up every year.

Still, the software group is one of the largest at Intel and one of the largest such organizations at any company.

In the last few years, Intel’s investment in Linux, the main rival to Windows, has increased. Intel has hired some of the top Linux developers, including Alan Cox from Red Hat, the leading Linux seller, last year. Intel pays these developers to improve Linux as a whole and to further the company’s own projects like Moblin.

“Intel definitely ranks pretty highly when it comes to meaningful contributions,” Linus Torvalds, who created the core of Linux and maintains the software, wrote in an e-mail message. “They went from apparently not having much of a strategy at all to having a rather wide team.”

Intel has also bought software companies. Last year, it acquired OpenedHand, a company whose work has turned into the base of the new Moblin user interface.

It has also bought a handful of software companies with expertise in gaming and graphics technology. Such software is meant to create a foundation to support Intel’s release of new high-powered graphics chips next year. Intel hopes the graphics products will let it compete better against Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices and open up another new business.

Intel tries to play down its competition with Microsoft. Since Moblin is open source, anyone can pick it up and use it. Companies like Novell will be the ones actually offering the software to PC makers, while Intel will stay in the background. Still, Ms. James says that Intel’s relationship with Microsoft has turned more prickly.

“It is not without its tense days,” she said.

Microsoft says Intel faces serious hurdles as it tries to stake a claim in the operating system market.

“I think it will introduce some challenges for them just based on our experience of having built operating systems for 25 years or so,” said James DeBragga, the general manager of Microsoft’s Windows consumer team.

While Linux started out as a popular choice on netbooks, Microsoft now dominates the market. Microsoft doubts whether something like Moblin’s glossy interface will be enough to woo consumers who are used to Windows.

Intel says people are ready for something new on mobile devices, which are geared more to the Internet than to running desktop-style programs.

“I am a risk taker,” Ms. James of Intel said. “I have that outlook that if there’s a possibility of doing something different, we should explore trying it.”

    Intel Adopts an Identity in Software, NYT, 25.5.2009,






Op-Ed Contributor

The Rise of the Machines


October 12, 2008
The New York Times



“BEWARE of geeks bearing formulas.” So saith Warren Buffett, the Wizard of Omaha. Words to bear in mind as we bail out banks and buy up mortgages and tweak interest rates and nothing, nothing seems to make any difference on Wall Street or Main Street. Years ago, Mr. Buffett called derivatives “weapons of financial mass destruction” — an apt metaphor considering that the Manhattan Project’s math and physics geeks bearing formulas brought us the original weapon of mass destruction, at Trinity in New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

In a 1981 documentary called “The Day After Trinity,” Freeman Dyson, a reigning gray eminence of math and theoretical physics, as well as an ardent proponent of nuclear disarmament, described the seductive power that brought us the ability to create atomic energy out of nothing.

“I have felt it myself,” he warned. “The glitter of nuclear weapons. It is irresistible if you come to them as a scientist. To feel it’s there in your hands, to release this energy that fuels the stars, to let it do your bidding. To perform these miracles, to lift a million tons of rock into the sky. It is something that gives people an illusion of illimitable power, and it is, in some ways, responsible for all our troubles — this, what you might call technical arrogance, that overcomes people when they see what they can do with their minds.”

The Wall Street geeks, the quantitative analysts (“quants”) and masters of “algo trading” probably felt the same irresistible lure of “illimitable power” when they discovered “evolutionary algorithms” that allowed them to create vast empires of wealth by deriving the dependence structures of portfolio credit derivatives.

What does that mean? You’ll never know. Over and over again, financial experts and wonkish talking heads endeavor to explain these mysterious, “toxic” financial instruments to us lay folk. Over and over, they ignobly fail, because we all know that no one understands credit default obligations and derivatives, except perhaps Mr. Buffett and the computers who created them.

Somehow the genius quants — the best and brightest geeks Wall Street firms could buy — fed $1 trillion in subprime mortgage debt into their supercomputers, added some derivatives, massaged the arrangements with computer algorithms and — poof! — created $62 trillion in imaginary wealth. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that all of that imaginary wealth is locked up somewhere inside the computers, and that we humans, led by the silverback males of the financial world, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, are frantically beseeching the monolith for answers. Or maybe we are lost in space, with Dave the astronaut pleading, “Open the bank vault doors, Hal.”

As the current financial crisis spreads (like a computer virus) on the earth’s nervous system (the Internet), it’s worth asking if we have somehow managed to colossally outsmart ourselves using computers. After all, the Wall Street titans loved swaps and derivatives because they were totally unregulated by humans. That left nobody but the machines in charge.

How fitting then, that almost 30 years after Freeman Dyson described the almost unspeakable urges of the nuclear geeks creating illimitable energy out of equations, his son, George Dyson, has written an essay (published at Edge.org) warning about a different strain of technical arrogance that has brought the entire planet to the brink of financial destruction. George Dyson is an historian of technology and the author of “Darwin Among the Machines,” a book that warned us a decade ago that it was only a matter of time before technology out-evolves us and takes over.

His new essay — “Economic Dis-Equilibrium: Can You Have Your House and Spend It Too?” — begins with a history of “stock,” originally a stick of hazel, willow or alder wood, inscribed with notches indicating monetary amounts and dates. When funds were transferred, the stick was split into identical halves — with one side going to the depositor and the other to the party safeguarding the money — and represented proof positive that gold had been deposited somewhere to back it up. That was good enough for 600 years, until we decided that we needed more speed and efficiency.

Making money, it seems, is all about the velocity of moving it around, so that it can exist in Hong Kong one moment and Wall Street a split second later. “The unlimited replication of information is generally a public good,” George Dyson writes. “The problem starts, as the current crisis demonstrates, when unregulated replication is applied to money itself. Highly complex computer-generated financial instruments (known as derivatives) are being produced, not from natural factors of production or other goods, but purely from other financial instruments.”

It was easy enough for us humans to understand a stick or a dollar bill when it was backed by something tangible somewhere, but only computers can understand and derive a correlation structure from observed collateralized debt obligation tranche spreads. Which leads us to the next question: Just how much of the world’s financial stability now lies in the “hands” of computerized trading algorithms?

Here’s a frightening party trick that I learned from the futurist Ray Kurzweil. Read this excerpt and then I’ll tell you who wrote it:

But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. ... Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

Brace yourself. It comes from the Unabomber’s manifesto.

Yes, Theodore Kaczinski was a homicidal psychopath and a paranoid kook, but he was also a bloodhound when it came to scenting all of the horrors technology holds in store for us. Hence his mission to kill technologists before machines commenced what he believed would be their inevitable reign of terror.

We are living, we have long been told, in the Information Age. Yet now we are faced with the sickening suspicion that technology has run ahead of us. Man is a fire-stealing animal, and we can’t help building machines and machine intelligences, even if, from time to time, we use them not only to outsmart ourselves but to bring us right up to the doorstep of Doom.

We are still fearful, superstitious and all-too-human creatures. At times, we forget the magnitude of the havoc we can wreak by off-loading our minds onto super-intelligent machines, that is, until they run away from us, like mad sorcerers’ apprentices, and drag us up to the precipice for a look down into the abyss.

As the financial experts all over the world use machines to unwind Gordian knots of financial arrangements so complex that only machines can make — “derive” — and trade them, we have to wonder: Are we living in a bad sci-fi movie? Is the Matrix made of credit default swaps?

When Treasury Secretary Paulson (looking very much like a frightened primate) came to Congress seeking an emergency loan, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, a Democrat still living on his family homestead, asked him: “I’m a dirt farmer. Why do we have one week to determine that $700 billion has to be appropriated or this country’s financial system goes down the pipes?”

“Well, sir,” Mr. Paulson could well have responded, “the computers have demanded it.”

Richard Dooling is the author of

“Rapture for the Geeks: When A.I. Outsmarts I.Q.”

The Rise of the Machines, NYT, 12.10.2008,


















James Yang


They Criticized Vista. And They Should Know.        NYT        9.3.2008
















Digital Domain

They Criticized Vista.

And They Should Know.


March 9, 2008

The New York Times



ONE year after the birth of Windows Vista, why do so many Windows XP users still decline to “upgrade”?

Microsoft says high prices have been the deterrent. Last month, the company trimmed prices on retail packages of Vista, trying to entice consumers to overcome their reluctance. In the United States, an XP user can now buy Vista Home Premium for $129.95, instead of $159.95.

An alternative theory, however, is that Vista’s reputation precedes it. XP users have heard too many chilling stories from relatives and friends about Vista upgrades that have gone badly. The graphics chip that couldn’t handle Vista’s whizzy special effects. The long delays as it loaded. The applications that ran at slower speeds. The printers, scanners and other hardware peripherals, which work dandily with XP, that lacked the necessary software, the drivers, to work well with Vista.

Can someone tell me again, why is switching XP for Vista an “upgrade”?

Here’s one story of a Vista upgrade early last year that did not go well. Jon, let’s call him, (bear with me — I’ll reveal his full identity later) upgrades two XP machines to Vista. Then he discovers that his printer, regular scanner and film scanner lack Vista drivers. He has to stick with XP on one machine just so he can continue to use the peripherals.

Did Jon simply have bad luck? Apparently not. When another person, Steven, hears about Jon’s woes, he says drivers are missing in every category — “this is the same across the whole ecosystem.”

Then there’s Mike, who buys a laptop that has a reassuring “Windows Vista Capable” logo affixed. He thinks that he will be able to run Vista in all of its glory, as well as favorite Microsoft programs like Movie Maker. His report: “I personally got burned.” His new laptop — logo or no logo — lacks the necessary graphics chip and can run neither his favorite video-editing software nor anything but a hobbled version of Vista. “I now have a $2,100 e-mail machine,” he says.

It turns out that Mike is clearly not a naïf. He’s Mike Nash, a Microsoft vice president who oversees Windows product management. And Jon, who is dismayed to learn that the drivers he needs don’t exist? That’s Jon A. Shirley, a Microsoft board member and former president and chief operating officer. And Steven, who reports that missing drivers are anything but exceptional, is in a good position to know: he’s Steven Sinofsky, the company’s senior vice president responsible for Windows.

Their remarks come from a stream of internal communications at Microsoft in February 2007, after Vista had been released as a supposedly finished product and customers were paying full retail price. Between the nonexistent drivers and PCs mislabeled as being ready for Vista when they really were not, Vista instantly acquired a reputation at birth: Does Not Play Well With Others.

We usually do not have the opportunity to overhear Microsoft’s most senior executives vent their personal frustrations with Windows. But a lawsuit filed against Microsoft in March 2007 in United States District Court in Seattle has pried loose a packet of internal company documents. The plaintiffs, Dianne Kelley and Kenneth Hansen, bought PCs in late 2006, before Vista’s release, and contend that Microsoft’s “Windows Vista Capable” stickers were misleading when affixed to machines that turned out to be incapable of running the versions of Vista that offered the features Microsoft was marketing as distinctive Vista benefits.

Last month, Judge Marsha A. Pechman granted class-action status to the suit, which is scheduled to go to trial in October. (Microsoft last week appealed the certification decision.)

Anyone who bought a PC that Microsoft labeled “Windows Vista Capable” without also declaring “Premium Capable” is now a party in the suit. The judge also unsealed a cache of 200 e-mail messages and internal reports, covering Microsoft’s discussions of how best to market Vista, beginning in 2005 and extending beyond its introduction in January 2007. The documents incidentally include those accounts of frustrated Vista users in Microsoft’s executive suites.

Today, Microsoft boasts that there are twice as many drivers available for Vista as there were at its introduction, but performance and graphics problems remain. (When I tried last week to contact Mr. Shirley and the others about their most recent experiences with Vista, David Bowermaster, a Microsoft spokesman, said that no one named in the e-mail messages could be made available for comment because of the continuing lawsuit.)

The messages were released in a jumble, but when rearranged into chronological order, they show a tragedy in three acts.

Act 1: In 2005, Microsoft plans to say that only PCs that are properly equipped to handle the heavy graphics demands of Vista are “Vista Ready.”

Act 2: In early 2006, Microsoft decides to drop the graphics-related hardware requirement in order to avoid hurting Windows XP sales on low-end machines while Vista is readied. (A customer could reasonably conclude that Microsoft is saying, Buy Now, Upgrade Later.) A semantic adjustment is made: Instead of saying that a PC is “Vista Ready,” which might convey the idea that, well, it is ready to run Vista, a PC will be described as “Vista Capable,” which supposedly signals that no promises are made about which version of Vista will actually work.

The decision to drop the original hardware requirements is accompanied by considerable internal protest. The minimum hardware configuration was set so low that “even a piece of junk will qualify,” Anantha Kancherla, a Microsoft program manager, said in an internal e-mail message among those recently unsealed, adding, “It will be a complete tragedy if we allowed it.”

Act 3: In 2007, Vista is released in multiple versions, including “Home Basic,” which lacks Vista’s distinctive graphics. This placed Microsoft’s partners in an embarrassing position. Dell, which gave Microsoft a postmortem report that was also included among court documents, dryly remarked: “Customers did not understand what ‘Capable’ meant and expected more than could/would be delivered.”

All was foretold. In February 2006, after Microsoft abandoned its plan to reserve the Vista Capable label for only the more powerful PCs, its own staff tried to avert the coming deluge of customer complaints about underpowered machines. “It would be a lot less costly to do the right thing for the customer now,” said Robin Leonard, a Microsoft sales manager, in an e-mail message sent to her superiors, “than to spend dollars on the back end trying to fix the problem.”

Now that Microsoft faces a certified class action, a judge may be the one who oversees the fix. In the meantime, where does Microsoft go to buy back its lost credibility?

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley

and a professor of business at San Jose State University.

    They Criticized Vista. And They Should Know., NYT, 9.3.2008,






Gates Sees

Diminished Role

for Keyboards


February 22, 2008
Filed at 10:28 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- People will increasingly interact with computers using speech or touch screens rather than keyboards, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said.

''It's one of the big bets we're making,'' he said during the final stop of a farewell tour before he withdraws from the company's daily operations in July.

In five years, Microsoft expects more Internet searches to be done through speech than through typing on a keyboard, Gates told about 1,200 students and faculty members Thursday at Carnegie Mellon University.

Gates also said the software that is proliferating in various branches of science, including biology and astronomy must become even more advanced.

''They're dealing with so much information that ... the need for machine learning to figure out what's going on with that data is absolutely essential,'' he said.

Microsoft is trying to establish ties not only with university computer science departments but also with reseachers in other scientific areas ''to help us understand where new inventions are necessary,'' Gates said.

Gates plans to retire as Microsoft's chief software architect in July and focus on philanthropy.

    Gates Sees Diminished Role for Keyboards, NYT, 22.2.2008,






Microsoft Unveils

Vista Operating System


November 30, 2006
Filed at 10:37 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- For the first time in five years, Microsoft Corp. is finally unveiling a new system for operating personal computers. Now the company must persuade PC buyers that the launch really matters to them.

Beginning Thursday, businesses that buy Windows licenses in bulk have first crack at the new operating system, called Vista. Consumers can get Vista on home PCs beginning Jan. 30.

Microsoft and computer vendors contend that Vista will make Windows machines more secure, powerful and graphically dynamic, especially when combined with other products Microsoft is releasing simultaneously. Those include new back-end server software for businesses, as well as Office 2007, which brings sweeping changes to widely used programs such as Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint.

Much is at stake for Microsoft. Most of its revenue and almost all of its profit comes from Windows and Office, funding the company's sexier ventures in video games and music players.

But even with all the touted improvements, analysts expect Vista to only gradually emerge, especially in big organizations where upgrading can be a costly, complicated affair. Gartner Dataquest predicts that it will be 2010 before Vista outnumbers the previous operating system, Windows XP, on business computers.

A company with 10,000 employees, for example, likely has 1,000 business applications, many of which need to be tested on Vista before a company can switch its PCs to the new operating system, said Gartner analyst Michael Silver. That process often takes 12 to 18 months and lots of labor by the technology staff. (In other words, for a large business to implement Vista right away would probably require it to have been an eager-beaver type that experimented with Vista during its ''beta'' phase that began in mid-2005).

In the meantime, the last operating system, Windows XP, works just fine for most companies -- especially with a security-enhancing patch known as Service Pack 2 that Microsoft released in 2004.

PC makers say Vista will enable computers to do things that previously were difficult or costly. For example, Lenovo Group Ltd., the world's No. 3 PC maker, says Vista greatly enhances data-backup tools it builds into its machines.

''All those capabilities are going to be one step better with Vista,'' said Clain Anderson, Lenovo's director of software peripherals.

But many buyers want more dramatic reasons to change their PCs.

Kamal Anand, chief technology officer for TradeStone Software Inc., a Gloucester, Mass.-based provider of supply-chain software, examined test versions of Vista and Office and found ''no compelling need'' to upgrade his company's 100 PCs and laptops anytime soon. Instead, Anand expects Vista and Office to slowly permeate TradeStone as it buys new PCs for employees in coming years.

''Nobody wants to go through the extra time and effort and money to upgrade an existing, well-working system,'' he said.

The programs in Office 2007 have been overhauled in many ways. Generally they can make it easier for people to collaborate on documents and to manage information from multiple sources. Excel in particular packs a wallop, with vastly increased number-crunching abilities. The Outlook e-mail program performs noticeably faster searches for tidbits buried in messages.

Some Office programs also have scrapped their familiar menu structure in favor of a ''ribbon'' atop the screen that reorders how command choices are presented to the user. While that new interface unlocks many features that were hard to find in previous generations of Office software, it will require some time to get used to, which might give tech buyers pause.

Another potential drag for Office is that the world has changed considerably since the last major release in 2003. Inexpensive, open-source alternatives to Office have gained traction. And rivals such as Google Inc. are increasingly delivering spreadsheets, word processing and other tools for free over the Internet, an attractive choice for smaller companies.

At Tabblo Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup that lets people assemble, print and share online photo collections, CEO Antonio Rodriguez expects to upgrade many, though not all, of the company's 25 PCs to Vista throughout 2007. Tabblo's staff expects Vista to make it easier to back up files and synch data over multiple computers. Rodriguez and crew also have energetically adopted Microsoft's latest Web browser, Internet Explorer 7.

But Office 2007 holds few such attractions for his company. Tabblo employees have largely abandoned Excel and Word for free programs on the Web, praising the flexibility that comes with having files stored online. Just about the only Office program Rodriguez still uses is PowerPoint for presentations.

''To me, Office 2007 is a complete non-event. I have no interest in an upgrade,'' he said. ''Most of what I like about computing now lives online.''


On the Net:

Microsoft's guide to Vista:


    Microsoft Unveils Vista Operating System, NYT, 30.11.2006,






Windows Is Ready

to Tout PC’s as Gaming Devices


July 18, 2006
The New York Times


Quick, name the world’s most popular electronic game system.

If PlayStation or Xbox popped into your head, that’s understandable. Sony and Microsoft, the companies that make those machines, have spent rafts of cash over the years trying to make those brands synonymous with video games. But however understandable, if you answered PlayStation or Xbox or even Nintendo, you were also wrong.

In fact, the world’s most popular game machine is the personal computer. And that doesn’t mean Macintoshes; Macs are essentially nowhere in the game world. That means PC’s based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Hundreds of millions of people around the world use Windows PC’s and in Microsoft surveys about half of them report playing games. That doesn’t include the legions of office-bound Solitaire and Minesweeper addicts who don’t even think of themselves as gamers. (You are, though!)

But as popular as PC gaming is and has been, the general public has never really thought of the home computer as a primary game system. That is no accident. For the first few decades of the digital age, Microsoft’s top goal was to get computers into as many homes as possible. Bill Gates and friends knew that a family was more likely to spend $1,000 on its first computer if was meant to help little Johnny with his homework, or send baby pictures to Grandma, or help with the taxes, rather than if the family was thinking about the PC’s ability to send them into outer space or the depths of a dragon’s lair.

Well, here come the dragons.

After years of treating games, game players and game makers as the vaguely disreputable loons of the PC family, Microsoft is making a major strategic shift. Just as games are becoming a core part of mainstream entertainment, Microsoft is beginning to embrace gaming as a core part of using a computer. That means marketing the PC as the world’s most powerful gaming system and revamping Windows to make it more game-friendly.

Now that the computer business is about convincing people who already have PC’s to buy new ones (rather than their first one), Microsoft executives say they have realized that emphasizing games is a great way to do that.

“Previously we’ve had game technology built into Windows, but we didn’t approach gaming as one of Windows’ fundamental applications, and that’s what we want to start to do,” Rich Wickham, the director of Microsoft’s Windows gaming group, said during a recent visit to New York. “That means supporting developers more closely, seeding great games, making games easier to install and play, and having a unified marketing presence.”

The bigger picture is that PC gaming is surging these days even without Microsoft’s help. A few years ago, the conventional wisdom in game circles (even at Microsoft) was that PC gaming was stagnant, a niche backwater that would soon be swamped by consoles like PlayStation and Xbox.

The tsunami most game executives didn’t see coming was the rise in subscription-based online PC gaming, which wasn’t reflected in the retail sales charts that dominate big screens in boardrooms. Online PC games like Lineage II and World of Warcraft are on pace to take in more than $2 billion this year worldwide.

At the same time, publishers are coming to appreciate that having a strong portfolio of PC games can help them through the tough times that accompany the transition to a new generation of consoles every few years. With the introduction of the Xbox 360 just last November and the scheduled debuts of Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii this fall, game publishers have been suffering as customers adjust and wait for the new consoles. Perhaps the biggest hit of the year has been the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a game with a fanatical PC fan base (though the game has sold more copies for the Xbox 360).

So with the two new Japanese consoles coming this fall, Microsoft will try to blunt their impact in two ways. The first is an all-but-certain price cut on the Xbox 360. The second will be a new marketing and branding campaign around Windows gaming. That means advertising, but just as important, it also means some long overdue help for the sad patch of real estate known as the PC games section in stores.

“There’s no question about it: Windows games at retail is a disaster,” Mr. Wickham said, “and we’re going to fix that.”

This is what he means: If you walk into a game store or the game section at a Wal-Mart these days, the PlayStation games have a clearly marked area of their own. All the PlayStation game boxes look somewhat similar, and the overall impression is that PlayStation is a unified community of games and products. Same with the Xbox area. Same with the Nintendo area. This is because Sony, Microsoft’s Xbox group and Nintendo try to make their products as attractive as possible in stores and offer financial incentives to retailers to make that happen.

The PC games area, however, usually looks like a dump. Games may be organized haphazardly, they all look different, and they are probably stacked on some dusty shelf in the back of the store. For decades PC games have been the children of a hundred mothers, with each publisher pursuing its own retail strategy, if any at all. Having learned how to do retail marketing correctly with the Xbox, look for Microsoft to apply most of those lessons to PC games this fall.

So there will certainly be some new buzz around computer games this holiday season. But that will hardly compare with what the general public should expect to hear about PC gaming from Microsoft early next year as the company trots out its next version of Windows, called Vista. As Microsoft tries to persuade millions of people around the world to upgrade to Vista, enhanced support for gaming is going to be one of the main selling points.

So even if your current computer does the taxes just fine, there may be dragons in your future.

Windows Is Ready to Tout PC’s as Gaming Devices,
NYT, 18.7.2006,










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