Bill Gates pronostica que el futuro de la prensa está en la Red
Bill Gates confía en la Red y en sus posibilidades periodísticas. Del 40 al 50% de la lectura de prensa en cinco años se hará por Internet, según el presidente de Microsoft, que aconseja a los periódicos desarrollar su estrategia de publicación online. Para este nuevo anuncio no utilizó un medio digital, sino la edición en papel del prestigioso diario Le Figaro, al que concedió una entrevista.
"La calidad del sitio Internet es crucial para las empresas de prensa", señala en el diario francés, que recuerda que antes para montar un periódico el listón estaba muy alto por las necesidades de impresión o distribución. Ahora "las empresas de prensa tienen cada vez más competencia de los medios de comunicación digitales", señala antes de aventurar en en cinco años "del 40 al 50% de la gente leerá la prensa online".

En el mercado editorial, el presidente de Microsoft señala que "el formato electrónico está más adaptado para enciclopedias, manuales de enseñanza o documentos profesionales que para novelas". Preguntado por la compra de la compañía Skype, que ofrece servicios de telefonía por Internet, por eBay, que ha pagado 2.600 millones de dólares, Gates considera que la operación hay que enmarcarla en "el mundo loco de Internet.

"Cuando algo nuevo aparece, todo el mundo se pregunta si no se va a convertir mañana en el corazón del mercado", pero hay que recordar que a finales de los 90, "de cada 200 empresas de Internet, 199 quebraron", argumenta.

Competidores en la Red

En cuanto a la competencia que representa para Microsoft Google, explica que "su filosofía es diferente a la nuestra. Su objetivo es organizar la información en el mundo. Nosotros creemos que no podemos hacerlo. Nuestro objetivo es crear herramientas que permitirán a otros organizar la información".

Bill Gates ve competidores en todos los rincones. "Google es nuestro principal competidor en Internet, pero tenemos muchos otros, como Sony en los juegos de vídeo, Nokia en el teléfono, etcétera. Una de nuestras bazas es poder integrar nuestras innovaciones en esos terrenos diferentes al servicio del usuario. Uno de nuestros grandes objetivos es hacer mejor que Google en la búsqueda en Internet".

El presidente de este emporio informático se muestra convencido de que Microsoft con su tamaño tiene capacidad para innovar: "No hay misterio. Las mayores innovaciones vienen de empresas que han invertido durante más de diez años".

Le Figaro
Bill Gates: "We’ve had no shortage of competitors in the last 30 years"

Microsoft’s president claims that his company is in competition with Google, Sony and Nokia. Its strength? Massive investment in research and development.

"From the very beginning we’ve always thought here at Microsoft that computer prices should come down. In fact, you can buy a real PC for 300 or 400 dollars right now."
Photo: François Bouchon/Le Figaro
Interview by Nicola Barré and Rémi Godeau. Publish on octobre 26

[26 octobre 2005]

LE FIGARO – Free telephone via the Internet, television via your mobile phone, networked games … it’s hard to see where the digital revolution will lead. What will the world of computers look like in five years?

Bill Gates
– It’s true, we’re going through a period of rapid innovation. Hard disk size, processor speed, screen quality, product miniaturization … Thanks to these developments, digitalization is advancing on all fronts. Take television, for example: from a terrestrial medium it has been transformed into a digital, no longer merely terrestrial medium capable of providing increasingly personalized content.

How will things look five years from now?
- Five years from now we can reasonably hope to see between 60% and 70% of French homes connected to broadband. A lot of schools and students will have Tablet PCs [digitalized notepad-style screens with computer capability, Ed.] and it’s possible to envisage, even if it is a little ambitious, that they will eventually replace traditional text books.

Are the days of newspapers and the printed press numbered?
- Fortunately, press organizations are not just good for cutting down trees but are also able to provide good articles that boost their reputation. For any publication, the quality of its Internet site is crucial. In the old days it was hard to set up in the industry for practical reasons: printing the newspapers, distribution, etc. But this is no longer true and the printed press is being subjected to more and more competition from its online equivalent. It’s possible that five years from now between 40% and 50% of people will read the press online. In order to keep their readership, newspapers have to develop their approach to publishing on the Web.

Do you still read print newspapers?
- Half of what I read I read on the Internet: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and The Economist. I read all the digital newspapers online: the articles are up-dated; they have demos, videos, links, etc. But when I have to read a really long article, I download it onto my Tablet PC.

Do you read books in the same way?
- Sometimes. But it’s undeniable that the digital medium is more suited to encyclopaedias, text books and professional documents than to novels …

Will free telephony become more widespread?
- It doesn’t really exist. You always pay for your broadband Internet connection even if the software that enables you to communicate is free. Telephony giants like France Télécom know that voice only is not the technology of the future and that they have to focus on broadband. In the United States, the two big telephone companies, SBC and Verizon, are extremely aggressive about television on the Internet. Cable TV companies, their competitors, who only did television, now do voice and data. Telephone companies who only did voice now want to do video and data. Competition is intense.

What do you think of eBay acquiring Skype for 2.6 billion dollars?
- That’s the crazy world of the Internet! When something new comes along everyone wonders if it’s going to be central to the market. And if it is, then it’s a good investment … In the late 1990s, out of 200 Internet companies, 199 went bust. Only a few, like eBay, Amazon, Google and Yahoo survived and became good investments. Everyone wants to know who’s going to be the next eBay.

How can you match user demand for personalized content with a respect for privacy?
- There’s really no contradiction. In a way, the Internet is even more private than a newsstand where you’d go to buy a magazine. On the Net, your identity can be protected, but that doesn’t mean you can’t receive personalized content. Most of our research and development budget is dedicated to developing ways of protecting private data, guaranteeing the security of transactions, providing parental control over their children’s access, etc.

What do you think of Negroponte’s project to develop a 100 dollar computer?
- From the very beginning we’ve always thought here at Microsoft that computer prices should come down. In fact, you can buy a real PC for 300 or 400 dollars right now. You know, I’m not entirely convinced that a computer you have to spend ten minutes winding up before it works for a minute is going to be successful. The real problem with cheap computers has less to do with the price of the equipment or the software and more to do with the price of broadband access: annually, you spend more on your broadband subscription than you do on equipment.

Has Google become your main competitor?
- We’ve had no shortage of competitors in the last thirty years. IBM have always been challenging, at times more so than they are now. Five years ago, Yahoo was very small and Google didn’t exist. Remember when Larry Allison and Scott McNealy were talking about network computing and the end of PCs? No one talks about that now. I’m not saying that Yahoo and Google are going to disappear. Maybe Microsoft will … But the market demands innovation. We bet on XML, Web services, new versions of Windows, XBox and MSN. And we’re happy we made that choice.

But Google is on a roll …
- Their philosophy is different than ours. Their aim is to organize the world’s information. We don’t think in those terms. Our aim is to give people – publishers, press companies, researchers – the tools they need to organize the world’s information. Microsoft went through its honeymoon phase in the mid-1980s. Now it’s Google’s turn: their Coca-Cola is better than ours and so are their vacations … It’s not often that Microsoft is underestimated to this extent. Google is our main competitor in terms of the Internet, but there are a lot others including Sony in the video games market, Nokia in telephony, etc. One of our advantages is that we are able to integrate our innovations in these various fields so that users benefit. And one of our major objectives is to provide better Internet search tools than Google.

Can a company of your size be as flexible as a start-up?
- It’s no secret. The most important innovations come from companies which have invested for over ten years. Why are we practically the only software company doing Tablet PCs, offering Internet TV solutions with our partner Alcatel, and developing voice recognition technology? Because it takes years of effort. Start-ups can’t do that.