Clearly, this is some hazy talking, with few details. There's always been a goal to let the everyman write applications, and we are starting to see that realization in small ways with things like PopFly and other Web mash-up tools. Still, Gates' comments sounded eerily familiar. Earlier this week, I spoke with space tourist and former Microsoft exec Charles Simonyi about what he's been up to, including his company Intentional Software, which he left Microsoft to found.
Here's how Simonyi described intentional programming: "The traditional model is oriented toward the computer. You are describing a program that will run on a computer, but what's missing is what the problem is. In intentional programming, you focus on what the problem is, not necessarily oriented toward the computer. It involves the subject matter experts, be it an insurance plan offering or a very complex aerospace system. When you have a description of the problem, through a generative approach, you connect that problem system with generative software."
Sounds a lot like what Gates was talking about, doesn't it? Simonyi's Intentional Software is still a very young company, and intentional programming is a very young model. But one of the reasons Simonyi left Microsoft is because he didn't think he could try the ideas of intentional programming out from within Microsoft. As the company and idea grows in status, he just might. This could easily be a long-term path for Microsoft.