Bill Gates Talks About Microsoft’s 40th Anniversary

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Microsoft is 40 years old this weekend. To mark the occasion, cofounder Bill Gates sent a forward-looking memo to the company’s more than 100,000 employees.

The six-paragraph letter (which was leaked, of course) focuses heavily not on the four decades that preceded it, but rather on Microsoft’s future—and what he sees on the horizon for computing generally.

“We are nearing the point where computers and robots will be able to see, move, and interact naturally, unlocking many new applications and empowering people even more,” writes Gates. The letter doesn’t reveal any grand visionary revelations about the future of tech that we haven’t heard elsewhere. But from it, one can get a clearer idea of where the company aims to focus its efforts in the future.

CHANGING THE WAY WE TALK TO MACHINES—AND EACH OTHER
One of the projects that Gates specifically lauds is Cortana, the artificially intelligent personal assistant for Windows mobile devices and soon, PCs as well. It’s Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Siri, the latter of which we haven’t heard much about from Apple lately. I don’t know about you, but my most frequent use case for Siri is when I shift my weight slightly in my chair and my ass inadvertently summons her for no reason. That isn’t to say that voice recognition isn’t going become a commonplace means of interacting with machines in the future. Indeed, Microsoft is clearly betting on it.

In fact, speech recognition is getting so good that computers can now act as translators between human beings. Skype Translator is Microsoft’s attempt to achieve exactly that, something that Gates calls out with pride in his letter. Of course, Microsoft isn’t the only company working on this technology, but its eventual inclusion in a product as widely used as Skype is a pretty big deal.

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SOURCE: Fast Company, VentureBeat, John Paul Titlow

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