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2/11/2014
02:51 PM
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Gates On A Plane: Samuel L. Jackson As Bill?

Bill Gates uses Reddit chat to discuss new role advising Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella -- and he names the actor Melinda Gates would like to watch play Bill in a movie.

What kind of counsel will Bill Gates provide in his role as adviser to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella? The Microsoft co-founder and former CEO provided insight into his new job during an "Ask Me Anything" chat Monday on Reddit.

"I make sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them," Gates said when asked to describe his duties.

"I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways," he continued. "The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files -- it will be your history including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up."

[Nadella's priorities should also be your priorities. See Microsoft's Satya Nadella: Marching Orders For Digital Business.]

Gates, who reiterated he will spend a third of his time at Microsoft, said he was "thrilled" Nadella asked him "to pitch in," and that the cloud can transform even well-established products, such as Office.

He also identified growth in deep learning technologies as one of today's most important trends. "The ultimate is computers that learn," he stated.

Bill Gates

As a seasoned media figure, Gates confined his Microsoft-related comments to abstract, high-level remarks. But they link to statements he and other Microsoft execs have made over the last year in support of retiring CEO Steve Ballmer's "One Microsoft" strategy.

Last summer, Ballmer sent employees a memo detailing his plans and the company-wide reorganization they would entail.

"Our machine-learning infrastructure will understand people's needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance. We will be great at anticipating needs in people's daily routines and providing insight and assistance when they need it," Ballmer wrote in that memo, evoking the same cloud and deep-learning concepts that Gates referenced Monday.

Ballmer elaborated in his memo, stating Microsoft will provide users a "deeply personalized [experience], based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."

At July's Microsoft Faculty Summit, Gates echoed some of these remarks. He noted that the cloud has made "infinite computing and infinite storage ... almost a reality," enabling software to become "a powerful assistant that can help us get things done, and help us derive deep insights."

Last November, Nadella, who was at the time running Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, told journalist David Kirkpatrick that Microsoft has the assets to be "a relevant infrastructure guy in the future" because it supports a range of SaaS applications on its own cloud service, which gives it the perspective, expertise, and resources necessary to become a cloud mega-provider.

What do all these comments from recent months have in common? They all paint Microsoft as an ecosystem-based, cloud-driven corporation. The company became the most important software maker in the world when PCs were the stewards of our files and data, and, with the cloud usurping many of these duties, Microsoft sees a way to maintain its world-beating stature.

But the remarks also hint at Microsoft's controversial effort to chase consumers, instead of fully throwing its resources behind lucrative enterprise services.

"If you're going to be in email, you're going to be in email. You can't say, okay, I only want to be enterprise email," Ballmer said last fall, adding that the alternative is to "be like Oracle and not participate in certain high-value activities."

In his conversation with Kirkpatrick, Nadella appeared to agree. He argued that his company's cloud platform, Windows Azure, has only become popular as an infrastructure service because it first supported a range of Microsoft products, including consumer-oriented properties such as Xbox Live and Bing. This experience, Nadella said, gives Microsoft the insight to support clouds efficiently and at scale.

Gates seemed in high spirits during the Reddit chat. He advertised his appearance with a short animated video in which he praised less heralded philanthropists and espoused the value of aid efforts.

He didn't speak specifically to any consumer products, but his reference to "memories of kids growing up" doesn't sound like a workplace-oriented service. Rather, his words suggest a world in which Microsoft services flow across devices, from the living room to the office and everywhere between.

Moreover, the Microsoft leader's references to machine learning likely refer to

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 2:00:20 PM
While I like Samuel L. Jackson's acting...
...he doesn't really look enough like Bill Gates to play the role.

 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2014 | 10:49:23 AM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
+1. That would be great. Gates would have to make an appearance at the end of it, too.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 10:02:19 AM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Who needs Kickstarter? Mr. Gates could check his couch cushions and find enough money to fund this thing.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2014 | 9:51:12 AM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Seriously, I think a kickstarter is in order. I have a feeling Samuel L. Jackson would be down. His rationale for making Snakes on a Plane was pretty simple: "It's the kind of movie you either want to see, or you don't." I think he'd get the appeal of a Gates biopic.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2014 | 9:46:16 AM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
I hope the people at "Funny Or Die" are hard at work on a mini-biopic of Samuel L. Jackson as Bill Gates. Please make this happen, Internet!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 5:45:39 PM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Kevin Spacey would have lots of fun in that role. I haven't got any suggestions for who else could play Bill, but my friend Kim Davis came up with a "Separated at Birth" for Steve Ballmer. After all, Ballmer must be in a movie about Gates!

Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 4:37:35 PM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Anthony Michael Hall. Oh wait....
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 4:04:31 PM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Christopher Mintz-Plasse resembles Gates enough to be early Bill.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 3:53:38 PM
Re: Who To Play Gates?
Whoever plays Gates must resemble him or be made up to resemble him. Gates is just too iconic and recognizable a figure. Zuckerberg, for all his accomplishments, much less so. Kevin Spacey...excellent choice. He could pull it off.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2014 | 3:41:05 PM
Re: Free advice, but what's it worth?
That's the rub. Gates was a visionary when the PC was the center of the universe, but time will tell if he can carve out a similar legacy based around the cloud. Say what you want about the state of Microsoft's Windows Store ecosystem, but Azure has become formidable very quickly. That probably speaks more to Nadella's strengths than to Gates's, but either way, it makes me optimistic about Microsoft's new leadership team. Very curious to see what they bring to Build in April. 
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