There's no denying the fact that Bill Gates is a very smart man, and that he has a passion not only for technology but also for helping the poor through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Today he sat down with Erik Schatzker of Bloomberg TV to discuss many different topics, ranging from banking for the poor to how Satya Nadella is doing at Microsoft to whether he's going to spend time court side watching the Clippers with his friend, Steve Ballmer.
In the beginning of the interview, Gates speaks about how he's working to get banking for the poor. After giving some ideas and reasons why banking for the poor is important, he stated that Bitcoin, or a future similar technology, would be a great way to go.
Well Bitcoin is exciting because it shows how cheap it can be. Bitcoin is better than currency. You don't have to be physically in the same place, and for large transactions currency can get pretty inconvenient. The customers we're talking about aren't trying to be anonymous, they're willing to be known, so Bitcoin technology is key and we can add to it or build a similar technology where there's attribution and people feel comfortable. This has nothing to do with terrorism or money laundering.
The conversation turned to Apple Pay, and how that can be used for cheap transactions. Bill Gates was pretty excited about the technology and thinks that Apple will be able to bring this to critical mass for the world, although he was a little less enthusiastic about it helping the poor in other countries.
Well Apple Pay is a great example of how a cell phone that identifies its user in a pretty strong way lets you make a transaction that should be very very inexpensive. So the fact that in any application I can buy something, that's fantastic. The fact that I don't need a physical card anymore, I just do that transaction, and you're going to be quite sure about who is on the other end, that is a real contribution, and all of the platforms whether it's Apple's or Google's or Microsoft's, you'll see this payment capability get built in. That's built on industry standard protocols, NFC, and these companies have all participated in getting these going, Apple will help make sure it gets to critical mass for all of the devices.
The host then asked Gates if he has talked to Tim Cook about helping with this initiative. Gates was a little flustered, and basically said what everyone knows: Apple is all about making money.
No... The... Uh... The kind of basic things underneath aren't the things that Apple Pay was involved in. Apple Pay will take anybody they've signed up for the payment instrument, so they're not involved in driving the efficiency.
Later, the host again put Gates on the spot, bringing up the fact that he had talked about digital currency and electronic wallets more than 20 years ago in his book, The Road Ahead, and asked point blank, "How come Microsoft hasn't entered this market already?" Gates looked a little uncomfortable, grinned a lot, and gave a response best categorized as a non-answer.
Well, Microsoft has a lot of the banks using their technology to do this type of thing, and the mobile devices, the idea that a payment capability and storing the card in a nice secret way, that's going to be there on all the different platforms. So the vision, Microsoft had a really good vision in this, and my time on this area is all foundation focused.
The conversation then switched to new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and whether this is something the Windows maker should be focusing on, and how Gates feels the new man in charge is doing in his job. Although Gates stated that he's "very happy with what he's doing," curiously he went on to say that he believes the company needs to make Microsoft Office dramatically better. We're not sure exactly what that means, but Gates was very animated about it, and he's apparently making sure the company heeds this advice.
Certainly, Microsoft should do as well or better, but of all the things Microsoft needs to do in terms of making people more productive in their work, helping them communicate in new ways. It's a long list of opportunities Microsoft has to innovate, and taking Office and making it dramatically better would be really high on the list, that's the kind of thing that I'm trying to make sure they move fast on. I'm very happy with what he's doing. I see a new sense of energy. There's a lot of opportunity there. Some things the company isn't the leader on, and he sees he needs to change that.
The conversation continued with talk of how his foundation is focusing on eradicating the Ebola virus and polio abroad, in addition to trying to improve education in the United States, before ending with a simple question of whether we'll see Gates court side at an upcoming Clippers game.
I'm not a guy who spends a ton of time watching sports games, but my friends own teams, and I enjoy spending time with them, so at some point, probably.
Overall, it's an interesting interview and definitely worth taking the time to watch, even if the emphasis on improving Microsoft Office surprised us quite a bit.