Gates visited Columbia University in New York City, Princeton University in New Jersey, Howard University in Washington, D.C., the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He shocked students throughout North America as he strolled into their classrooms as a substitute teacher and answered questions about himself and the IT industry.
Microsoft said the tour was as much about listening as talking. The company used the visits not only to kindle enthusiasm for IT studies and careers, but to find out what students today are doing with technology.
Part of Gates' message was that the opportunities for computing to change the world have never been greater. Kevin Schofield, General Manager for Microsoft's Strategy and Communications, published a blog on the tour. He summarized Gates' views in an interview published on Microsoft's Web site.
"There's an opportunity to improve the livelihoods of billions of people around the world, not just at the level of computing improving people's lives," Schofield said. "There are specific industries, like the life sciences, that are being fundamentally revolutionized by computing technology."
Schofield said digital media and developments in communications are also going to revolutionize the way people live. He said that DVDs could become obsolete because basic computing architecture can deliver visual entertainment. High-bandwidth networking environments will allow people to get beyond conference calls to include visual and audio transcription.
Microsoft was using the visits to determine what students expect in terms of technology in the college environment. The company wants to see how students are taking notes, whether they expect PowerPoint presentations during lectures and how they're seeking entertainment, Schofield said.