Monday, March 27, 2006

Gates keynote - quick thoughts

Just got back from the keynote address by Bill Gates. This is the second time I've been privileged to see him speak live, and each time I've been struck by his ability to relate the underlying technology to the everyday lives we lead at work and at home.

This year's Microsoft Convergence conference is focusing on the rapidly emerging family of Microsoft Dynamics software products. We've seen a range of gee-whiz composite applications that make it easy to implement complex processes. All of this points to a pretty bright future for anyone who uses a computer to get work done and stay on top of rapidly evolving business scenarios.

With all this magic around us, however, it's easy to get caught up in the technology angle of it all. It's easy to become so consumed by the wizardry of the code that we forget why this code exists in the first place.

Gates doesn't. There are over 10,000 people here, many of them the bread and butter customers who have businesses to run, as well as employees and family members who count on them to keep the wheels turning so they can put food on the table. The tools we're learning about here allow business people to get more out of the time they spend tending their business. These tools allow folks to compete more effectively in a cut-throat market. Then they let them get home in time to spend more time with their kids.

I get the sense from people I'm speaking to here in Dallas that technology matters to them at a fundamental level, but not because the interface is fancy or the clock speed is high. It's because it lets them be better people (read my sidebar...this is a pretty fundamental focus of mine.)

It's the kind of message that doesn't really come through in an e-mail or a webcast. It's the kind of message that hits home when you're informally chatting with a complete stranger in the hallway on the way to your next demo; when the lightbulb in your head goes off because you realize these people are getting ahead because ot it. It's the kind of message I'll keep in mind as I flesh out the reams of research that this experience will inspire in the weeks and months to come. This stuff matters to people: my words must reflect that somehow.

Incidentally, Mr. Gates is, along with his wife, the world's greatest philanthropist. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has donated well over $6 billion to education, health care and other causes. At the end of his keynote, he discussed his efforts in this often-overlooked area. He spoke eloquently about what it will take to reduce America's shockingly high dropout rate and rein in diseases that kill millions worldwide.

He showed that cool code has implications that extend far beyond the screen. Something else to keep in mind as I digest all I've learned thus far this week.

I've got to go get ready for my next session. More later...

To read the transcript from his talk, click here.

One more thing: I've had a link to this blog added to the Convergence Bloggers web site. Click on the Press link toward the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. You'll find a familiar link if you do. Posts from here are also being fed to the Microsoft page. Don't forget to wave.


Charles (Canadian in Hong Kong) said...

Sounds like a very cool conference, and in this crazy insane information overloaded society, Gates' logic and your make a lot of sense. Hope you enjoy the rest of the conference!

Sandy said...

I've got to tell you Carmi, in a day and age when Gates is easily painted the greedy little code theif by some I speak to, it's refreshing to see a more upbeat impression. My first PR job included work with for a small company that developed add-on tools for Visual-Basic. I will never forget the founders comments about Bill Gates. He basically said - call the man what you want, but whole lot of us are employed today because of what he's done.