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Bill Gates on Computers, the Internet and Technology; How They Will Revolutionize Home Business

The Desktop computer is the foundation of the home business revolution. If you think of the one person most responsible for this technological marvel, you keep coming up with one name — Bill Gates. His MS-DOS computer operating system and user-friendly software programs have changed the way people live and work.
Most people know Bill Gates as owner of the Microsoft Company and — with a net worth of $36.4 billion — the world’s top billionaire. What most people don’t know, however, is that Bill Gates started out as a home-based entrepreneur. In the early 1970s, Gates developed computer applications that at the time were snubbed and shunned by large, mainstream computer companies such as IBM (to their deep regret).
Like many busy executives, Bill Gates maintains and continues to work from an office in his home. One endeavor that occupied part of Mr. Gates’ time while working from home in the past, was writing his book, The Road Ahead. HOME BUSINESS® Magazine is pleased to share Mr. Gates’ thoughts and predictions on how computers and the Internet will revolutionize home business.

Computers Sample; Home Business
Without surprise, Bill Gates attaches a sink or swim importance to computers for home-based entrepreneurs. The personal computer, as a communication and productivity tool, drives innovation. “The desk-top personal computer has and will continue to be at the center of the home-based revolution,” professes Gates, “It simply has too many capabilities, and too much potential, not to be.” Rapidly evolving hardware, business applications, on-line systems, Internet connections, electronic mail, multimedia titles, and authoring tools have all enhanced the capabilities of personal computers.

But computers are not close to reaching their potential use by home-based entrepreneurs and other business owners. Bill Gates laments, “We’re only about halfway to achieving our original dream of a computer on every home and on every desk. I believe that 20 years from now, before we’re too old, the industry will have fulfilled that promise.”

One way of getting there is to make desk top operating systems more user- friendly. Currently, Microsoft is working on computers that see, listen, and learn. Upcoming OS technology will enable computers to recognize human gestures and human voices, and to respond to changes in human behavior. Presently, Microsoft invests over $2 billion a year in research and development in this area. Gates comments, “This idea of more intelligent computers and a natural interface is really the ‘holy grail’ of computer science.” Computers that react to human voice and gestures, not only help people with disabilities, but assist all users who experience difficulties with applications. They will foster more home-based entrepreneurship, including new opportunities for the disabled.

Making Better Software
Improvements in software capabilities will increase computer use and further benefit home businesses. Key areas include the Microsoft Office Suite and other software productivity applications. Bill Gates anticipates new applications for this software. He remarks, “The applications will be integrated with the Internet. The software will take advantage of many new operating system functions.”
Other cutting-edge developments are server software and the BackOffice. These applications make high-end computing easier, more manageable, and less costly. They provide clustering, transaction support, queuing, and other high-end features. “We have made enormous gains in these areas over the last two years,” comments Gates, “The result will be new and more challenging business opportunities for home-based and small businesses.”

Impact Of the Internet On Home Business
The Internet is currently a place of vast confusion. A growing number of experts doubt the World Wide Web will ever be a viable place of commerce. Bill Gates agrees that the Internet is going through serious growing pains, but he is no naysayer to its future. “Throughout the history of Microsoft, which is over 20 years, we’ve waited for a time when individual, separate computers would all tie in through a common network.”
Three years ago, Gates’ vision became reality. At college campuses across the nation, a new system known as the Internet allowed computers of different types to work with one another. Following Internet standards, users were given opportunities to easily communicate and share information with each other. Gates proclaims, “The Internet has achieved critical mass. Every year we will get richer and richer content.” The result will be continued “growth and opportunity for home-based entrepreneurs.” Microsoft is highly responsible for this rapid evolution. From websites to e-mail, Microsoft has influenced all facets of the Internet’s expansion.

Improving the Cost Effectiveness of the Internet
Mr. Gates knows that both technological growth and economic factors will drive Internet prosperity. The result will be greater opportunities for home businesses to capitalize on lower costs of operation. Gates says the Internet “will prove to be a much more cost effective means to market and sell goods than traditional ways.” Traditional means include costly and labor-intensive distribution systems, inventories, storefronts, sales people and expensive advertising and sales campaigns. With access to the Internet, consumers will be able to make most of their buying decisions on-line, at much less expense. However, Gates recognizes the big challenge to achieve this paradigm shift is, “weaning people off the need to physically see and touch something before they buy it.”
Web TV & Making The Internet More User-Friendly
For the Internet to grow to its potential, to make that “paradigm shift,” Bill Gates believes it must become more user-friendly. This will in turn expand on the types and varieties of home-based business opportunities.
One way to reach this is through Web TV. This low-cost device converts the television screen into a computer display. For about $250, a box connects to the television that connects the viewer with the Internet. Web TV does not allow users to run a full range of applications, yet it gives people Internet and electronic mail access. It opens up a part of the market that was not there before, particularly in homes and home offices connected with cable. Another technological advance is ISDN cabling. This will solve the second major problem with the Internet, that being the frustrating amount of time necessary to transmit graphics. Today, most people are dialing up using the phone network where the state-of-the-art modem is 28k baud. That works fairly well for pages that are mostly text or low resolution still images.
But as Bill Gates notes, “When you move up to ISDN, which is five times faster, or even better technologies, such as PC cable modems or ADSL (both about 20 times faster), not only do the pages come up on screen a lot faster, but you can start to incorporate audio and video elements. This opens up new opportunities for home-based businesses.” The benchmark for Bill Gates is that Internet screen images must “move as quickly as pieces of paper in someone’s hand.”
The Interactive Marketplace
Where Bill Gates sees all this leading to — growth in the Internet, Web TV, ISDN cabling, — is what he calls “the Interactive Market.” This market will foster a boom in home-based entrepreneurship and opportunities. Gates believes, “The interactive market will be the ultimate market, a central place where we will buy, sell, trade, haggle, pick-up stuff, argue, meet new people, and hang out.” Sales transactions will consist of the exchange of money, tendered in digital form, and digital information.
To Bill Gates, the possibilities are endless. “The Interactive Market will give everyone broader choices about most things, including how you earn and invest, what you buy, and how much you pay for it, who your friends are and how much time you spend with them, and where and how securely you and your family live.”
In the Interactive Market, home businesses will be on an equal footing with any office-based enterprise. “Your workplace — whether home or office — will be indistinguishable.”
One outgrowth of the Interactive Marketplace will be the interactive content business. Interactive content businesses have tremendous potential as home- based businesses. The emergence of this industry can be seen in such products as MSN, MSNBC, Sidewalk, Expedia and the on-line magazine “Slate.” “Our focus in this area is on the software and technology that will allow these new interactive forms to emerge. Some of these businesses will be successful; others won’t. If things go well, this business one day will be as large as any one of the others.”
Advances in computer software and rapid Internet growth is creating a boom in economic opportunity. Home-based entrepreneurs are best positioned to benefit from these changes. To reap this opportunity requires that one be able to adapt to and use emerging technologies.