Bill Gates on Business and Charity Microsoft chairman Bill Gates joins Alex Chadwick to talk about Windows Vista, the company's new operating system. Gates also talks about his reaction to the Apple-Microsoft ads and the recent controversy surrounding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its investment policies.
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Bill Gates on Business and Charity

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Bill Gates on Business and Charity

Bill Gates on Business and Charity

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From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up, change in our daily lives or at least for the 90 percent of us who look at much of the world on our computers through Microsoft Windows. Today that operating system gets its first overhaul in five years. The new system is called Vista. Microsoft has notably tested this with millions of users. Here is one of them on what he likes best about it.

Mr. BILL GATES (Founder, Microsoft): The search has probably saved me the most time. The new look is something I wouldn't want to give up. I love parental control. I love the ability to be creative, make high-definition movies - a lot to choose from.

CHADWICK: Okay, we're cheating. That user is Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, famously the richest man in the world, now in the process of relinquishing management of the company to devote himself to philanthropy. Microsoft said we could talk to him about Vista, and DAY TO DAY said yes.

We'll also have a PC Magazine editor review the system, and we'll begin with a sampling of opinion we gathered in Los Angeles. What do people really want from a new computer operating system?

Ms. TERRI WILLAMS(ph) (Resident, Los Angeles): My name is Terri Williams. And I just wish you would be able to just click a button, and things would just happen. Just like Nike says, just do it.

Ms. PATRICIA CARTER(ph) (Resident, Los Angeles): I'm Patricia Carter. That gray color that kind of battleship gray, I'm tired of. And I would love to have more choices and more options.

Ms. LYNN KASAN(ph) (Resident, Los Angeles): My name is Lynn Kasen. And if I had the perfect operating system, it'd be one where I wouldn't have to download updates every few weeks because that just ties up my bandwidth. And also, one that just won't crash all the time.

Mr. DAVID WEST(ph) (Resident, Los Angeles): My name is David West. It would be nice if Windows was more user-friendly, in that, you know, it could help you troubleshoot much better than just: error message.

Mr. CHRIS ANDERSON(ph) (Resident, Los Angeles): Hi. I'm Chris Anderson. Well, I think one problem with Windows, everything that they implement I've - the articles that I've read about it, they're comparing it a lot to - well, you know, Mac OS X already has that. So you know, unless they can kind of come up with something new, and they kind of like they're playing catch up as opposed

CHADWICK: Bill Gates, what would you just say to these users you've heard?

Mr. GATES: Well, most of everything that was said there connects to great things that have been done in Vista. The new look, the deeper liability, the updating that takes place without the users having to be involved in it.

CHADWICK: Let me just say that I've looked over several articles about Vista. I'll quote Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal: Pretty good, he says, but maybe not exciting.

Mr. GATES: All you have to do is let a user have about, oh, four or five minutes playing around with it, and they'll say wow. You know, I use Windows a lot, and I'd love to have these capabilities. And all you need is one kid where the parental controls work well for you. One neat new application and it's well worth it.

CHADWICK: Did you see the article in The New York Times? I read this in that article, many industry analysts view this is as the last hurrah of the fading order of computing dominated by the PC and ruled by Microsoft. It's that last hurrah of the fading order that maybe would be a little troubling for Microsoft.

Mr. GATES: You know, it's interesting to look at - has there ever been a year where people didn't say we were at our peak. I mean, 1995, you know, I think it was Netscape that was about to make us irrelevant. Then it was Sun, Borland, you can go through a lot. It's a very competitive business.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about that and refer back to a comment from one of those users we heard from earlier who said, you know, I've seen this on Mac before. And many of the reviews of Vista, do compare it to Mac. Does that bother you? I mean, I think it must. It would me, I think.

Mr. GATES: No. What are they going to compare it to? Windows is used by over 90 percent of users, and that's because of the range of applications, and the range of hardware. And Vista's a big advance for both of those things. Some people use Macs, in fact, you know, even Microsoft write software for the Macintosh, one of the most popular applications ever. You know, we feel great about the work we've done.

CHADWICK: But there is some sense that the Mac is cool and Windows is not.

Mr. GATES: Well, no, actually, Apple thinks that Windows users are not cool, and that Apple users are cool.

(Soundbite of computer advertisement)

Unidentified Man #1: Hello, I'm a Mac.

Unidentified Man #2: And I'm a PC?

Unidentified Man #1: I'm been doing fun stuff like movies, music, Podcast, stuff like that.

Unidentified Man #2: I also do fun stuff like timesheets and spreadsheets and pie charts.

Unidentified Man #1: Okay, yeah. No, by fun, I mean, more in terms of - for example, it can be kind of hard to capture a family vacation, say, with a pie chart, you know.

Unidentified Man #2: Not true.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh?

Unidentified Man #2: For example, this light-gray area could represent hangout time, whereas this dark-gray area, could represent just kicking it.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah. No, I feel like I was there.

CHADWICK: I've seen some criticism of the Mac ad campaign making exactly that point. It's a little bit mean maybe.

Mr. GATES: Well, it's certainly not to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GATES: So, you know, Microsoft is held to a very high standard. And with Vista, you know, we're raising the bar. And you know, people are welcome to ask us for more because that's what we're going to give them.

CHADWICK: You're going to step down from the company in July of next year, leave it, and go into philanthropy. What do you think your days are actually going to look like then, do you know?

Mr. GATES: Philanthropy for me is a lot of global health, able to meet with the scientists, trying to come up with the breakthroughs, get out in the developing world and a bit more than I do now, and see what works. So it's a little hard to know exactly what it will be like. It will be a big change for me. But, you know, I've made the decision, and you know, I think there's some great things I can do in that area as well.

CHADWICK: In line with your philanthropy work, may I ask you about the articles in the Los Angeles Times that ran earlier this year? A series about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation noting that you do an awful lot of good work, but that some of the companies that the foundation invests its assets in, also create problems - pollution problems. And after that series of articles ran, the foundation said: Look we're concentrating on our good works. We're not evaluating all of the companies that we invest our assets in.

Is that a good enough response?

Mr. GATES: We've chosen to focus on where our expertise is; that's a vaccine for AIDS, a vaccine for malaria. And we think that having people focus there is where we can have the biggest impact. Now, taking into judgment about, you know, which company score in which way, and you know, trying to have some bonds, or you know, is there something U.S. government has done that we shouldn't own those.

the different rankings of those things. And we do have cases where we've bought our proxies according to values. We've got, you know, some types of stocks we don't own. But when you look at impact, you're going to have to look for us to do what we're good at and that's global health and education.

CHADWICK: Bill Gates, thank you for speaking with us on DAY TO DAY.

Mr. GATES: Thank you.

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