The Drum Awards for Marketing - Extended Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec


By Noel Young | Correspondent

February 12, 2013 | 6 min read

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates did his first-ever Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit at 10.45a.m. Eastern US time today. Ans he even prepared this video to kick it off.

He made it clear ithe intended to focus the AMA on his job heading the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Many of you know me from my Microsoft days. The company remains very important to me and I’m still chairman. But today my full time work is with the foundation."

However inevitably one of the first questions was about Microsoft.

Q: What one Microsoft programme or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

Gates: We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will remerge 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.

Gates was referring to WinFS, or Windows Future Storage. Behind this was the idea to integrate some relational database technologies with the Windows File System. In its early days, WinFS (codename "Cairo")was key to Microsoft's plans to create a true, object-oriented file store.

Q: What's the cheapest thing that gives you most pleasure since becoming wealthy?

Gates answered: "Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses..."

Q: What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

Gates: Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.

Q: What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?

Gates: Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at "computers". Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways..

Q: What are your thoughts on the push against the open and free Internet that we have been seeing in the recent past and present (such as sopa, etc)?

Gates: There are two things this could reference. One is the free/pay for software mix. The Internet has benefited from having lots of free stuff and lots of commercial software. It has been interesting see people inventing hybrid models. Even stuff that is pretty commercial often has free versions for some audiences. Even the most open stuff often have services people choose to pay for.

The second thing is the anonymous versus identified tension. This is another one where both will probably thrive since you want anonymity for some things and full identity for others. I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space but it will improve.

Q: Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend's hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.

Gates: I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favour to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it.

Q: Do you still code?, if so which language?

Gates: Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming...

Q: What's your favorite book?

Gates: My favorite of the last decade in Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature. It is long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time. I review a lot of the books I read at (is that too self-promotional?

Q: Given the recent targeting of health professionals in Pakistan and Nigeria, do you think eradication of polio is attainable in the next decade? How is the Gates Foundation going to get over this barrier to eradication? Also, what is your opinion on the anti-vaccination movement in general?

Gates: The violence against the vaccinators in both Pakistan and Nigeria is a terrible thing. However both countries are committed to finishing the eradication. This is the project I spent most of my time on. We should be able to finish by 2018 although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was but it is doable. (I discuss this more at and you can learn more about the progress against polio with this infographic:

Q: type of computer are you using right now?

Gates: I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice. I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now - huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive... (

Gates: Thanks for the great AMA, Reddit! I hope you’ll read my annual letter and visit my website, The Gates Notes, to see what I’m working on. I’d just like to leave you with the thought that helping others can be very gratifying.