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Bill Gates Takes On The “Is Microsoft Innovative?” Question

Bill Gates met with some bloggers Tuesday, and Jonathan Snook decided to go at him with the age-old question about whether Microsoft is an innovator, or a bullying copycat. Gates proved that underneath the ill-fitting shirts and the underwhelming stage presence lies a strong debater who can disarm even the toughest of questions with facts and humor.

To quote a bit from the transcript, Gates is told by Snook that he feels Microsoft has always been reactionary. Gates’ response is brilliant:

Especially when we started the company. (Laughter.) I knew that three years later, Apple would come along. It was [just a reaction]. (Laughter.)

There are bits the transcriber had trouble picking up. They’re in brackets.

Gates response is completely disarming, and funny too. Snook responds by asking about Word being reactionary to WordPerfect, and Gates goes:

When do you think Microsoft did its first word processor, just out of curiosity?

Gates says that Microsoft has little 8080 word processors, and that ultimately Charles Simone built the first bitmap graphics word processor at Xerox PARC, and he started Microsoft Word (or Microsoft Multi-Tool Word), so there was no reactionary movement, just coders doing what they do.

He makes the more important point that Microsoft didn’t beat WordPerfect by copying them, they won by betting heavily on the graphical user interface while WordPerfect bet against it, a costly losing bet.

Bill then asks who else is doing tablet computers? Who is doing IPTV? He explains that Microsoft is so big, everything it does becomes the baseline, so by definition that means only what everyone else does is innovative.

Anyway, tablet computers, is there somebody else out there doing tablet computers? IPTV, is there somebody else out there doing — by definition what we do is the baseline. Everything Microsoft does is the baseline, and what we don’t do, that’s what’s innovative I guess. (Laughter.) And by that definition the other guys do all the innovative things.

It’s not an airtight argument, but it’s a better way of looking at it than some defenders of Microsoft have tried using. Bill does make the good argument that the winners in tech are rarely the ones who come up with the new idea, but rather the ones who bring it to market properly.

Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, it just brought it mainstream. Microsoft didn’t invent the graphical OS, it just brought forward the first one compatible with everyone’s old software. YouTube didn’t invent internet video, it was just the first one to package it with an easy embeddable player and a great community. The winners aren’t the ones who do something first, but the ones who did it right for the market and the users.

It’s a lesson we should all remember as we try to make a difference in the world.

December 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate | 6 comments

Vista File Copying Is Blazing Fast

Long Zheng ran a really funny screenshot of a 15-megabyte Vista file copy operation that was going to take 129 years to complete (and that’s after it’s more than half done!). I edited the screenshot for a post on the InsideGoogle blog, but I thought you’d be interested in seeing how bad file copying on Vista can get. Here’s my edit (the From and To fields are the only things I changed):

In the comments, Long LOL’d my edit, so I know it’s all good. Man’s got a great sense of humor, so an LOL from him is like getting compliments on your base stealing from Ricky Henderson. By which I mean Long is an irritable jerk.

Hmm. He’s from Australia. Not sure he’s gonna get that joke.

Anyway, the main message here: Next time a 100 megabyte file copy takes 45 minutes, don’t complain! At least you don’t have to wait until the year 2136 to finish copying.

December 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Humor, Windows | one comment

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One Reason Your Vista PC Won’t Get Any Sleep


For the last few days, my wife’s PC (that I’m almost done building) wouldn’t go to sleep when I hit the appropriate button on the keyboard. Instead, teh screen would fade to black, but the loud fans would keep going and the whole thing would come right back awake the instant I moved the mouse. It took about ten minutes to figure out why this was happening, so if you need a solution, here it is.

If you’ve recently turned on media sharing on your PC (like you recently connected it to an Xbox 360 or other remote media device, or even just messed with the media settings), Windows probably activated “Away Mode” and didn’t bother telling you that. Thanks a lot.

Away Mode is a really cool idea, in theory. It’s the idea that if Windows is sharing media with another PC or Media Center Extender, when you put it to sleep it instead goes into a quiet state, shutting off the screen and speakers, and ignoring the mouse and keyboard. However, while the PC may appear off, it is anything but. The system is still drawing almost the same amount of power, plus all the fans are running as normal, which can get annoying if we’re talking a bedroom media PC.

If you don’t need Away Mode, especially since the same benefits can often be had by just turning off the monitor, go into your power settings. Type Power Options in the Start Menu and hit Enter, then under your currently selected power plan, hit “Change plan settings“. Click “Change advanced power settings” on the next page, then on the dialog that pops up, scroll to the bottom and find Multimedia settings. If “When sharing media” is set to “Allow the computer to enter Away Mode”, you’ve found the culprit.

Just switch the setting to “Allow the computer to sleep“. If you want the PC to be able to sleep, but not to go to sleep on its own (when you stop using it for a while), select “Prevent idling to sleep“. And there you go, you’ve shut off Away mode and re-enabled Sleep for your system. Celebrate!

This isn’t to say that everyone should disable Away Mode, but rather that it isn’t for everyone, and if it’s annoying you, just get rid of it. I wish Away Mode were smart enough to suspend the computer completely when not in use, so the fans turned off, and only woke it when recording TV or streaming media, and even then in a quieter state, but that’s not possible right now.

December 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows | 4 comments

Happy Hanukkah From Silverlight

If you have Silverlight installed, then right above this paragraph you should see a Hanukkah Menorah created in Silverlight by Michael Scherotter. Not only does it have animated flames, but every day it shows the correct number of candles to light, so you can come back in case you forget (tonight was three candles). Michael’s made available the source code at his blog, and you can embed the Silvelight Menorah in your blog with this code:

< iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="width:88px; height:96px">< /iframe>

December 7th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Silverlight, Developers | 2 comments