Gates recently gave some execs a demo of his own desktop system and some of the applications he uses in his daily work.

John Foley, Editor, InformationWeek

March 4, 2003

6 Min Read

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates recently spoke to about 100 CEOs attending the company's annual CEO Summit at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. Gates touched on a wide range of business-technology issues, including IT investment, advances in computing hardware and software, and initiatives such as Web services and trustworthy computing. He also gave the executives in attendance a demonstration of his own desktop system and some of the applications he uses in his daily work. What follows is a condensed excerpt from his day-in-the-life-of-Bill tech overview. - John Foley

"I thought I'd do one last thing, which is just to give you a sense of how I work in a typical day, using these tools--what am I doing sitting in my office? I've got here a pretty nice system, this is a 23-inch LCD. You can see it's got an interesting aspect ratio to let you see lots of information across like this. This is still a pretty expensive display, they're about $2,500. These will come down in price over the next three years, we think, to about a third of that. So even though today, maybe only the executive staff should have these things, these are going to be commonplace. As LCDs get larger you'll see a couple of cases where that extra screen area really is very helpful in terms of that productivity you get out of it.

"I'd say that of my time sitting in my office, that is, time outside of meetings, which is a couple of hours, two-thirds of that is sitting in E-mail. E-mail is really my primary application, because that's where I'm getting notifications of new things, that's where I'm stirring up trouble by sending mail out to lots of different groups. So it's a fundamental application. And I think that's probably true for most knowledge workers, that the E-mail is the one they sit in the most. Inside those E-mails they get spreadsheets, they get Word documents, they get PowerPoints, so they navigate out to those things, but the center is E-mail.

"So here you can see I've got a lot of different E-mails. I'm in my in-box here, and you can see I've got a bunch. These are different folders here, these are actually the E-mails, and I'm using this three-pane view, so that when I navigate to different E-mails I'm automatically seeing the E-mail there. And that works, because I have this big screen, so I'm not having to go in and out of the E-mail a lot, I can navigate around with a lot of speed.

"Now, let's say I have an E-mail here. There's a classic question when you get E-mail, is it something you can just read and say, 'OK, I'm done with that'? That's very satisfying--you just delete it and never think about it again. But often it will be something where you'll send a reply and expect a follow up, or you think, 'Oh boy, I'd better read that more in depth.' What you want to do is just flag it. You'd want to just right-click and pick some kind of flag--I picked a blue flag there--and then have that indicated, and then be able to see all the mail that you've flagged. So what we have here is a thing called For Follow Up, and it sorts it according to which things I put into the different categories, the blue, the yellow, the green, and that's just a view on the E-mail. I didn't have to move things into different folders.

"The other thing that I do is I go to these shared Web sites. Each of our product groups or project groups will have a Web site, and at that Web site you have information about the documents those people work on together, the calendars that those people have, and so it's a way of working together. And it's a shared Web site that's got all the different information that's available up there.

"These are the things I talked about people being able to set up on a very straightforward basis. They typically, this one here, you know, is a CEO thing, you can see the calendar is here. I used the standard template for this one, if I ask for the contacts, it's just going to show me all the different people who are attendees to the meeting, so that comes up pretty well. I can put so-called Web parts in here, where you have information from business systems.

"This is too small, I should grow the text up. So here I have stock prices from various people here at the meeting, and it's live. I hope that doesn't shock anybody. And I've got live news coming in from MSNBC. And you can have these Web parts that, say, connect to your project-management system and show the current schedule for things, or show the sales results, are they at forecast, below forecast, and different Web parts belong on different pages that people have.

"I've got a document library, and people can check things out and check things back in here. Let me just finish up with two quick documents that are in here. One is a little spreadsheet that I have, and I just created this, it's almost a kind of a humorous thing. But what I did is, I created a spreadsheet that connects out actually to Amazon, and looks at which books are important. Amazon actually has one of these Web services. And so you can go in, and for any book, you can ask how well it's selling.

"I've also created a live connection where I can type in any author and see how well their books are selling. I just click Go, and what it's doing is it's going out to the Amazon Web site and seeing everything that's got my name associated with it. I just have the ones that I directly authored, and I see here, OK, I've got one that's the 138,000th most popular, 88,000th, oh, 400th, that's not too bad. And honestly I didn't go out to buy any this morning to try and make this thing work better. And I can even do some comparative things here. Let's see how Michael Dell is doing as an author. And so this is live information that's up on the Web site. So, I'm a little bit ahead, his is the 401st best seller. It looks like Michael and I need to come out with a new book to move up on the charts there."

This excerpt is used with permission from Microsoft.

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About the Author(s)

John Foley

Editor, InformationWeek

John Foley is director, strategic communications, for Oracle Corp. and a former editor of InformationWeek Government.

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