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Moving Into the Digital Decade by Bill Gates

Moving Into the Digital Decade
By Bill Gates
October 29, 2001

The following essay appeared in various publications, including The Business Times (Singapore, Oct. 25, 2001) and Electronic Times (Republic of Korea, Oct. 26, 2001).

During the past 20 years, weve seen the PC evolve from a hobbyists toy into an essential productivity and communication tool. Back in 1981, just over one million personal computers were sold annually. Today, more than 500 million are in use worldwide. And while desktop computers once were used for little more than writing letters and running spreadsheets, they now model complex business information, run Web sites serving millions of users, power incredibly realistic games, and help people communicate with friends and colleagues wherever they are.

Just about the only thing that hasnt changed about PCs is the way they empower and inspire the people who use them. The appeal of the very first personal computers was that they really were "personal" their owners didnt have to hand their programs to a staff of computer technicians or rent time on someone elses mainframe. For the first time, they were limited only by their own imagination. That empowerment drove an entirely new industry one that has shared the benefits of computing with literally billions of people, transforming the way we communicate and do business, and pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the global economy.

It never ceases to amaze me how far the PC has come since I first used one. But whats even more incredible is that were still at the beginning of the PC revolution. The next ten years which I call the "Digital Decade" will help even more people and businesses realize their potential.

The innovations of this decade will be more than just a handful of new features. Theyll transform the way the PC fits into our lives, and the way we think about computing. Youll still have a PC on your desk at work, but it will be at the center of a range of devices that bring the power of the PC to you, wherever you are. Youll carry a tablet-sized PC to meetings and take notes on it by hand, then search, organize and share those notes electronically. If youve missed a meeting, youll be able to review what happened and search for the parts that are relevant to you. When you travel, youll be as productive as you are in the office, with access to the same information and capabilities as your office PC.

At home, the power of the PC will be at the heart of everything from your television to your refrigerator. It will be the entertainment and communication center of the home, while keeping track of everything from your family schedule to the temperature of your house. When youre on vacation, youll have access to all the communication, information and entertainment capabilities you have at home. And wherever you are, youll have the power to control who can contact you or access your information to live your life as openly or as privately as you wish.

Windows XP, which Microsoft launches this month, makes many of these dreams a reality by helping make the experience of using a PC incredibly simple and powerful. I believe its more important than ever to launch products like this now, and move forward with our vision for computing so businesses have the competitive edge they need in uncertain times, and our industry partners have even more opportunities to develop exciting new products and services.

In the Digital Decade, youll no longer think of the PC as a tool you use only to carry out specific tasks it will become something you come to rely on all the time. The power of the PC will be as ubiquitous and reliable as electricity, and vastly more useful than any single device we use today.

When I think about what todays PC can do and the amazing innovations just over the horizon I feel the same enthusiasm and sense of empowerment as when I first started using computers. I cant think of a more exciting time to be in the computer industry.

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