Microsoft Corp. has for decades been on the cutting-edge of technological innovation. Company co-founder and chairman Bill Gates spoke to Peter Jennings today at the corporation's headquarters.
Gates talked at length about Microsoft's effort to upgrade security in the computer industry, his foundation's charitable work and his goals for the company.
Following is a transcript of the interview:
PETER JENNINGS: There are several stories in the newspapers this morning all about the speech you made in San Francisco about the state of security in the industry. How much of a challenge is security these days?
BILL GATES: Security is, I would say, our top priority because for all the exciting things you will be able to do with computers -- organizing your lives, staying in touch with people, being creative -- if we don't solve these security problems, then people will hold back. Businesses will be afraid to put their critical information on it because it will be exposed. People won't use their credit cards quite as much and buy things, and so it's really the thing we got to get right so that people don't think about it. So that it's just happening without their having to learn a lot of terminology and see a lot of user interface. We're making good progress on it.
JENNINGS: Microsoft is nonetheless accused of not getting it right and being slow to get it right.
GATES: Well, the whole industry has a challenge here. Because of Microsoft's central role, that means it's a big challenge that Microsoft has to step up to. Over the last year, people have been more and more complimentary of how we have made progress. We're focused on it, but a few years ago, people were being tough on us and I think there was a lot of validity to that.
JENNINGS: Microsoft is the biggest target.
GATES: We're responsible for the creation of the PC industry. The whole idea of compatible machines and lots of software -- that's something we brought to computing. And so it's a responsibility for us to make sure that things like security don't get in the way of that dream. You know, its individual empowerment, information at your fingertips -- we need to drive that forward.
JENNINGS: And if people continue to undermine Microsoft or the general technology in general, how seriously does it inhibit its future?
GATES: Oh, I think there are a lot of people who would be buying and selling online today that go up there and they get the information, but then when it comes time to type in their credit card they think twice because they're not sure about how that might get out and what that might mean for them. So I don't think it has caused us to go down in any way, but there is a lot more people who would be using it once we get all these concerns taken care of.
JENNINGS: You notice that ChoicePoint in California found that 30 some odd thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand, of their employees found that their identities got raided in their huge system. How worried does that make you?
GATES: Well, certainly there has been a lot of information in computers for decades -- your charge card information, your telephone call data. It's partly because people have personal computers, they realize all that information is out there and the people that have those databases need to secure them. They need to administer them properly because people expect their privacy to be preserved.