I think this last year has been every bit as active as I would have expected, so I wouldn't change a thing in the article. I love the way you ran it and I somewhat stake my reputation on some statements there. But I was clear that it wasn't going to be an overnight thing. As far as the cost of the hardware, people are really doing a fantastic job—walking, balancing, data acquisition. Also, some of the software libraries for those things that we, and others, are building—our software platform, people are downloading it.
This is Microsoft Robotics Studio, correct?
Yeah. If you want to get the real specific flavor of it, you should talk to [general manager of Microsoft Robotics Group] Tandy Trower and the guys in the group who live this thing every day. I think they got some of the most fun jobs in the company because they're at the beginning of a whole new thing.
Do you see your Robotic Suite as being a corollary to Microsoft Basic going forward?
I hope so. Now, we need to get more value added in there, in terms of planning, vision, speech-type things. Just like we did with earlyBasic, we see how people use it—if a lot of people are having to do the same thing, we think, "Okay, let's get that into the tool kit, so they don't have to duplicate that piece." So, we need to be very dynamic as we go along. But, that run time will get a lot richer. So somebody who just has a hardware innovation or just has a peripheral innovation, they immediately get leverage and don't have to build all the pieces. Once upon a time, every guy who wrote applications for PC had to write all of the printer drivers. Then we said, "No, no, no. Let's not have people do that."
Well, robots are well before even that stage, where to build a full application, you still have to do a lot of pieces. We look at things like those car-driving competitions and we say, "Okay, what is common in those software stacks? If we were going to make it so that it was half as much work next time people are doing those car competitions, what would those elements be?"
To get them sort of halfway ...
Right. And the general planning piece, the model of the world-type piece is where, over time, we can probably do something very important, but there are different ideas that we're testing out on that.
Aside from continuing developments in robotics, what other emerging technologies do you see on the horizon that have a chance to become mainstream?
Everything around natural interface—whether it's touch or visual recognition or ink recognition or speech recognition—all of those are things that we've seen demos of for a long time. And getting the right pieces, where it really explodes and becomes mainstream in the market—I feel like many of them are right on the verge of that. The reaction we've had to Surface, I think, is a good example of that. People have gone nuts just seeing some of the simple demos we've offered, because the directness is pretty strong. The extra cost, of course, is just a few cameras that down there; it's a Windows PC with a few cameras. And then what we put out in the last few months is the development tool kit.
[Gates then demonstrates a program that allows him to design a surfboard on the Surface.]