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  Exclusive Bill Gates interview
Updated 07 December 2001, 11.13

Sarah, 15, from Lincolnshire went to meet the richest man in the world, Microsoft boss Bill Gates.

Here's what he had to say:

Sarah: What is it like to be called the richest man in the world?

Bill: I'm surprised whenever I hear that! What it really means for me is that I have a lot of resources to give back to my Foundation and hopefully do a lot of good things because of that.

Sarah: Your company is now a household name but some people claim you have a monopoly on the IT industry. How do you react to that?

Bill: Well Microsoft has had its success by doing low-cost products and constantly improving those products and we've really redefined the IT industry to be something that's about a tool for individuals.

So we're proud of what we've done. We need to keep doing even better to maintain the leadership position we've got.

Sarah: OK. How did you take the news that Microsoft were going to be taken to court over the supposed monopoly?

Bill: Well I suppose Microsoft has had some sort of discussion with the government on various topics for over a decade and it's not atypical when you're successful to have various things of that kind of nature.

It's not the part of my job that I enjoy the most. I love building the products, seeing people use the products but you know along with success comes the need for a dialogue with the government.

Microsoft's success

Sarah: On the subject of success, what do you think of the way some people seem to dislike the success you've had with Microsoft?

Bill: Well, if you look at any survey about the most admired company or the place people want to work the most, Microsoft comes out on top again and again.

People are very passionate about software and we like getting their feedback, what they like, what they don't like, that's how people experience us - using the products. And wherever we fall short, we want to just go back and work a little bit harder, do a better job and make the PC and even more.

Sarah: What do you think it is that they particularly dislike?

Bill: People in the marketplace buy exactly what they want and they buy Windows machines because of the things that we've done there, the investments we've made there, if a company's successful it's mainly the competitors that speak out, you know.

They fear being in competition and we have a lot of competitors but mostly what we've got is people who never would have experienced computing if it hadn't been for the PC approach that we brought to the market.

Sarah: OK. Do you think that Microsoft will continue to hold its current top spot in the market?

Bill: Well that all depends on whether we keep making big breakthroughs, and we've got to make a machine that you could talk to, a machine that you can hold as a tablet and do handwriting with, we've got to make it so it's totally reliable and secure.

People have very high expectations for where we need to go with the software, and now we think we can meet those expectations because we're spending a lot on research and development. We've been able to hire a lot of great people and that's what makes my job a lot of fun.

The future

Sarah: Where do you see technology heading in the future?

Bill: The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't really even notice it, so it's part of everyday life.

That means having a computer remember what you're interested in so it can help you automatically, so that any machine you're using remembers where you left off so you can work with things like photos and music, so it's really about the ease of use at a whole new level.

Sarah: What is Microsoft's view on software piracy?

Bill: Well I think any author or musician is anxious to have legitimate sales of their products, partly so they're rewarded for their success, partly so they can go on and do new things.

In the case of software most buyers are very honest about paying for the software, we have special prices for education and student-type usage, but you know it isn't a 100 per cent and we always strive to let people know about the software licence scene and we take whatever sales there are and we use that to fund the research and development.

Sarah: Have you any other brilliant ideas?

Bill: Well, in the world of software a lot of the brilliant ideas of Microsoft come from a broad set of great people we've been able to hire.

We've got a research group up in Cambridge and I'm looking forward to reviewing their latest work. At Microsoft there are lots of brilliant ideas but the image is that they all come from the top - I'm afraid that's not quite right but fortunately there are plenty that are coming.

Sarah: What would you like for Christmas if you could have anything?

Bill: Well I'm mostly excited about the things I'm getting from my five-year-old daughter and my two-year-old son.

For myself getting books from people who you know think they're great books, that's a very nice present and - we have some traditional presents in our family, but mostly it's the kids that really are going to make it exciting.

Sarah: And finally, does your computer ever crash?

Bill: Oh definitely, believe me I get to the bottom of it every time and that's part of the passion that I and a lot of Microsoft people have is we want to make a tool that we want to use ourselves and we know from our own use we can make it a lot better and a lot more reliable.

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