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Bill Gates gets serious about Microsoft Bob

Gregg Keizer | July 16, 2013
'We were just ahead of our time, like most of our mistakes,' Gates says of personal agents like the notorious Clippy character

But for all the yucks Gates elicited today from his audience of ber-geeks — a term the CMU researcher applied to himself — his intent was not only serious, but in line with remarks Ballmer made last week.

In a long-winded public memo titled "Transforming Our Company," Ballmer touched on the same issue Gates tackled today.

"Our machine learning infrastructure will understand people's needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance," Ballmer wrote in a section pegged "Next-generation decision-making and task completion," one of four steps Microsoft is to make to execute its new strategy. "We will be great at anticipating needs in people's daily routines and providing insight and assistance when they need it."

Although Gates did not in any way reference Ballmer, his concluding comment on the subject synced with his successor's emphasis. "The prize to do these things is very large in a commercial sense," Gates said.

Gates has a personal connection to Microsoft Bob — more than it being just another product launched on his watch — as his wife, Melinda French Gates, was a marketing manager on the Bob project.


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