One-on-One with Bill Gates

JENNINGS: I read an article coming up here on Firefox (Web browser) and its perceived ability to do this better than you. Is that fair?

GATES: Well, there's competition in every place that we're in. The browser space that we are in we have about 90 percent. Sure Firefox has come along and the press love the idea of that. Our commitment is to keep our browser that competes with Firefox to be the best browser -- best in security, best in features. In fact, we just announced that we'll have a new version of the browser so we're innovating very rapidly there and it's our commitment to have the best.

JENNINGS: Are you going to have to push your browser faster because of competition?

GATES: Well, competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry?

JENNINGS: I knew you were going to say that (laughs).

GATES: (smiles) ... is intensely competitive. Whether it's Google or Apple or free software, we've got some fantastic competitors and it keeps us on our toes.

JENNINGS: And you say it keeps you on your toes, you have such a huge portion of the market -- in all elements of technology. Is the tendency in the shop sometimes to think that we just can't be beaten?

GATES: No, in fact that's one thing I like about the Microsoft culture -- is that we wake up every day thinking about companies like Wang or Digital Equipment, or Compaq, that were huge companies that did very well and they literally have disappeared. Got bought up, you know went into a direction that was a dead end for them. So we have that lesson and we are always saying to ourself -- we have to innovate. We got to come up with that breakthrough. In fact, the way software works -- so long as you are using your existing software -- you don't pay us anything at all. So we're only paid for breakthroughs. We have to make a new version of Windows or Office that you think is worth going out and buying.

JENNINGS: Why do so many people seem to think that open sourcing is so essential?

GATES: Well certainly there is always going to be free software, and there will be commercial software. We represent one company that has commercial software and can stand behind it in terms of support and compatibility. But we have always believed that free software space will be there and will be complimentary.

JENNINGS: Everybody I talked to seems to, particularly if they are young, seems to think that open sourcing is important and that among the reasons it is important is that it enables them to run more secure systems. Is that true from your point of view?

GATES: Actually no, but that is the kind of competition that we have. Is that they will innovate in that space, we will innovate in our space. And in fact, we do a lot of work to make sure that these things can inter-operate so that a company can have a mix of Microsoft products, Unix products, Mainframe products, and then each time they do a project they can look and say - is the Microsoft solution best? Is the other solution best? And so there will just be a lot of choices there, no one approach is going to replace the other.

JENNINGS: You sound quite sanguine about this. Is this a public position that is essential to take?

GATES: No, I have always loved the competitive forces in this business. You know I certainly have meetings where I spur people on by saying, "Hey, we can do better than this. How come we are not out ahead on that?" That what keeps my job one of the most interesting in the world.

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