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Another user asked him what emerging technologies he believes could cause a big stir for consumers similar to the advent of the personal computer. Gates says robots, pervasive screens and speech interaction with technology will change the way we look at computers. "Once seeing, hearing and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways," Gates wrote.
Gates was also asked about his take on the recent efforts against a free and open Internet, specifically citing legislation like SOPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act. Gates believes the ongoing debate represents a balance between free and pay-for software. "It has been interesting [sic] see people inventing hybrid models. Even stuff that is pretty commercial often has free versions for some audiences." He also cited the tension over online identity. "I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space but it will improve."
Gates and the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had a mutual respect for each other, Gates said, seeing each other regularly over the years, including just months before Jobs died. Gates said he mostly uses Windows machines, but he's tried all of Apple's products.
Does Gates have any regrets about products or services Microsoft could have launched but didn't? Gates said Microsoft had a "rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time." The company may work to integrate that into future products, though. "This is an idea that will remerge [sic] since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding."
Providing a little bit of a product pitch, Gates said he just received his Surface Pro last week -- "and it is very nice." For the AMA, he used a Perceptive Pixel display running Windows 8 with a touch whiteboard. "These will come down in price over time and be pervasive," he says.
"Do you guys really use Bing?" someone asked of the Microsoft search engine. Without explicitly answering the question, Gates said, "seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge."
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.