Gates looks ahead

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In his speech at the Microsoft CEO Summit, titled The Next Wave of Technology, Bill Gates has been looking ahead to how businesses can capitalise on the huge leaps being made in technology.

Technology, that he said, runs from falling storage costs, to increased network capacity and bandwidth, via mobile phones and portable computers, ending with the end-user who has never before been so technologically aware and computer literate.

"We are still only at the beginning of really empowering the workers," he said. "Now, we get to be more ambitious in our use of technology."

Gates explained that in terms of business use we were only using a very small amount of the capabilities being afforded to us.

Speaking about the use of Facebook-like applications within businesses, he said, "The social networking within enterprise where everybody has one of those web sites that they talk about, their interests and their background; getting that to be widespread is very important… if only 30 percent of the people do it, then its almost nothing – in fact it’s a waste of time to have done it."

Mobile phones, and other devices, will also change, working more as personal computers, and including presence and calendaring features. This would make it easier to communicate at the users' convenience, and on their terms, Gates explained.

End user familiarity with new social tools, which will continue to spread into the enterprise, will have many benefits for firms, as users will be more comfortable with the applications, and in some cases may take on the responsibility for managing them themselves.

This end user control will free up the IT department, Gates added, "Empowerment is a fairly basic thing.

"The big cost actually is the one that every company pays. No matter how well they use it, they are buying an internet network, they're buying state of the art hardware, and so this is just the thing that determines the value you get out of it, which is the software processes that you put on top of it."

"Amazingly, doing a lot of this stuff well actually gets the IT department out of the loop so they can go and focus in on other things."
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