Bill Gates made these 15 predictions in 1999 — and it's scary how accurate he was

Bill-Gates

After reading ’Business @ the Speed of Thought’, my respect for Bill Gates has increased exponentially. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t a fan of his before. I’ve always been impressed by the strategies that Microsoft carried out in its early days, but that doesn’t come close to how impressed I am now. In this book, published in 1999, Gates outlined how information systems, the Internet, and technology in general would change the way that businesses function. Along the way, he made some incredibly accurate predictions, most of which have since become huge industries: smart phones, smart homes, social networks, and an array of other uses for the Internet-a few of which have yet to be developed.

Gates presents a few key elements for a good information system. While we have to keep in mind that the book was written in the late 90’s, many of these questions are still hardly answered by today’s technology, and present opportunities for new businesses.

Predictions

  1. Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.
  2. People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.
  3. People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the Internet.
  4. “Personal companions” will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.
  5. Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.
  6. Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.
  7. Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.
  8. While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter contest where you vote on who you think will win.
  9. Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.
  10. Television broadcast will include links to relevant websites and content that complement what you are watching.
  11. Residents of cities and countries will be able to have Internet-based discussions concerning issues that affect them, such as local politics, city planning or safety.
  12. Online communities will not be influenced by your location, but rather, your interest.
  13. Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project, and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements.
  14. Similarly, people looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills.
  15. Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don’t usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don’t have a go-to provider for the said service.

The original post is here.

Mobile apps are now bigger than the web — a trend that threatens to eat Google's core business

Apps are eating the web.

Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the walled gardens of apps — and this trend just hit a major milestone.

According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps — up from around 41% two years ago.

It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it — notably Google.

As content that was once freely available and indexable on websites becomes silo-ed away in closed-off apps, it makes it harder to search and link to content. This is, of course, the cornerstone of Google's original business. Google is fighting back, by making the internal contents of apps searchable. But it is not clear that Google will come to dominate app search the same way it did web search.

Below is the data from ComScore, showing how mobile dominates when it comes to platforms people use to get online — and on mobile, apps are the most popular way of accessing information.

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And here's how the amount of time spent in apps has rocketed over the last few years.

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World's First Autonomous Drone, The DJI Phantom 4, Revealed

Recently, the Irish Internet of Things chip maker Movidius, has won a multi-million dollar deal with Google, and it has been revealed as the brain behind the breakthrough autonomous drone, the DJI Phantom 4.

This autonomous drone, which went on sale in Apple Stores across the US last week, features a new visual guidance facet, which sticks to and follows a subject, and can stay in a fixed position without the need of a GPS signal.

Described as the first in the industry, the addition of Movidius chips technology and algorithms allows spatial computing and 3D depth sensing.

This gives the DJI Phantom 4 drone the capability to sense and avoid obstacles in real time, which means that it has more autonomous flight functions – along with improved awareness of flight space in air. Additional intelligence features include improved vision based on tracking modes and advanced mapping capabilities.

The Phantom 4 drone is understood to be the only visually intelligent drone available in the market which has the ability to see the world through six different sensors, and it can also sense obstacles.

This comes with included features such as Tap Fly -- which would enable pilots to tap a spot on their display, which causes the drone to fly to that particular spot on its own. Active Track is also present, which would allow the pilot to track objects by using advanced image recognition algorithms.

In recent weeks, it materialized that Movidius’s internet of things chips will be the intelligence within an extremely powerful new VR headset which is being created by Google, and it will not need to be tethered to a PCs or the smartphone.

Khronos releases Vulkan 1.0 open graphics specification

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Khronos has released Vulkan 1.0, the next generation open graphics API, and a Vulkan SDK for Windows and Linux is now available from LunarG.

Khronos is an industry consortium which creates open graphics standards, including OpenGL and WebGL. Vulkan was announced in March 2015 and represents the next generation after OpenGL, though Khronos is keen to emphasise that OpenGL, and the cut-down OpenGL ES designed for mobile and embedded use, remain in active development.

Today's release includes version 1.0 of the specification, LunarG's SDK which has been sponsored by Valve Corporation, open source conformance tests, and a sample application. Croteam's Talos Principle, running on Steam, is available in a beta version that uses the Vulkan API.

Vulkan has wide support from GPU vendors. AMD has announced a beta of its Radeon software driver which supports the Vulkan API. Intel is offering "industry-certified drivers for three generations of Intel graphics platforms, with more to come," according to VP Imad Sousou. NVIDIA has Vulkan drivers for Windows, Linux and Android available from today. Imagination has early-access Linux drivers for its PowerVR GPU and is promising "Vulkan support extended to all our tools in the very near future". Qualcomm has announced Vulkan drivers for Android 6 for its Adreno 530 and 4xx GPUs, and ARM also has drivers in progress. Google is adding Vulkan support to the Android SDK.

Vulkan is not an update of OpenGL, but takes a different approach, allowing more direct access to GPU hardware and giving developers the ability to create and manage multiple threads running on GPU cores. This enables lower latency and better performance, though porting from OpenGL is not straightforward and in some respects the Vulkan API is more challenging for developers.

Davos: Smart machines set to transform society

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Artificial intelligence will spur economic growth and create new wealth. Machines that “think” like humans will help solve huge problems, from curing cancer to climate change. Yet millions of human workers will need to retrain, as robots make their existing jobs redundant.

These are the contrasting messages provided by the world’s leading technologists during the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, as political and business leaders ponder how best to respond to the rise of smart machines.

Sebastian Thrun, the inventor of Google’s self-driving cars and an honorary professor at Delft University of Technology, told the Financial Times that “almost every established industry is not moving fast enough” to adapt their businesses to this change.

He suggested self-driving cars would make millions of taxi drivers redundant and planes running solely on autopilot would remove the need for thousands of human pilots.

One of the central themes of this year’s conference is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” referring to how technological breakthroughs are expected to transform industries across the world. Delegates argued that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will have the transformative effect that steam power, electricity and ubiquitous computing achieved in previous centuries.

“[Artificially-intelligent machines] can look at a brainscan better than most radiologists, but they can also weld better than any human,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, the institution which has a partnership with Uber to build driverless cars. “It’s affecting white-collar and blue-collar jobs. Nobody is inherently safe.”

But Mr Thrun was optimistic that redundant roles will quickly be replaced.

“With the advent of new technologies, we’ve always created new jobs,” he said. “I don’t know what these jobs will be, but I’m confident we will find them”

Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, said: “This challenge of displacement is a real one, [but] I feel the right emphasis is on skills, rather than worrying too much about the jobs [which] will be lost. We will have to spend the money to educate our people, not just children but also people mid-career so they can find new jobs.”

Happy 60th Birthday Bill Gates

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The founder of Microsoft and wealthiest man in the world turns 60 years old today. William Henry Gates III was born October 28th, 1955 in Seattle, Washington where he still resides in his post Microsoft years.

He has much to celebrate as he turns 60. After leading Microsoft for decades it must be quite rewarding to see the company he founded grow in such a bold direction this year with a booming commercial cloud computing division, new category defining hardware that is leading the competition, and an incredibly fast adoption rate for Microsoft’s latest version of Windows.

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But Gates isn’t nearly as involved in Microsoft now a days as he used to be. He formerly stepped down as CEO in 2000 when Steve Ballmer took the reins. He also left his position as Chairman of Microsoft in February of 2014 when Satya Nadella was appointed CEO. He spends a great deal of his time working on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation‘s projects, which has been identified as the wealthiest charitable foundation in the world. The foundation focuses on improving the lives and productivity of people around the world, and has gained much attention recently for its emphasis on eradicating common diseases in developing nations.

Gates still does help out at Microsoft as a Technology Advisor. Most notably Gates has been helping Nadella rethink some of the company’s strategies, particularly with reinventing Office. And it appears his contributions are still paying off for the company with news that the reinvention of Office as an SaaS offering, Office 365, overtook Google Apps for Work this year.

So happy birthday Mr. Gates! Hope you are having a productive celebration of reaching the huge milestone of 60, while the company you founded continues to reach its own previously unimagined milestones. If you want to follow more about Bill Gates work outside of his advisory role to Microsoft, you can learn more on his personal blog GatesNotes.

IE loses stranglehold on the enterprise as Chrome makes major inroads

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Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) is about to lose the one market it's had locked up for decades: the enterprise.

According to research firm Gartner, enterprise usage of Chrome will surpass that of IE by the end of this year. In 2016, Google's browser will dominate corporations, with about two-thirds of enterprise users running Chrome as their primary browser.

That prediction flies in the face of longtime assumptions that even as consumers deserted IE for alternatives like Apple's Safari, Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox, IE remained an unassailable fortress in business, where Windows rules and entrenched line-of-business Web apps demand IE.

"Enterprises had to stick on IE8 because Microsoft supported only one version of IE on a system," said Gartner analyst Michael Silver in an interview, referring to business reliance on the older edition for intranet browsing and running aged apps. "They couldn't get IE11, which forced them into putting another modern browser on devices."

Increasingly, that other browser has been Chrome.

Gartner estimated that by year's end, Google will be the No. 1 primary browser in corporations, edging IE by a few percentage points. Next year, Chrome's enterprise usage will surge from 43% to 65%, while IE's will plummet from 47% to 28%.

That's a sea change.

But Microsoft's fighting back with Edge, an overhaul of IE that will ship as the default browser in Windows 10. Repeatedly dubbed a "modern browser" by Microsoft, Edge can run alongside IE11 on the same device, a first for Microsoft. In a recently published report for clients, Silver and his Gartner colleague David Smith said Edge was Microsoft's answer to the "realization of the market of today."

"Microsoft needs a second browser for those who need both a modern and legacy browser on the same device," Silver and Smith wrote of the Redmond, Wash., company's revamped browser strategy.

While Edge will play the part of the "modern" side of the equation -- Microsoft's answer to Chrome's infiltration of the enterprise -- IE11, which will also be included with Windows 10, will play the "legacy" character.

Six Books (and One Blog) Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer

Bill Gates — Microsoft CEO turned philanthropist, lifelong learner and fan of The Great Courses — is recommending seven texts you should read this summer. They’re not exactly light beach reading. But you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll get more dialed into issues on Gates’ mind. On his website, the video above comes accompanied by reasons for reading each work.:

Hyperbole and A Half , by Allie Brosh: the Book, based on Brosh’s wildly popular website, consists of brief vignettes and comic drawings her young About Life. The adventures she recounts are mostly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in public. You will rip through it in three hours, tops. But you’ll wish it went on longer, because it’s funny and smart as hell. I must have interrupted Melinda a dozen times to read to her passages that made ​​me laugh out loud.

The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, has a gift for making science enjoyable. This Book is as accessible as the TV series Cosmos is for Younger Audiences-and as Relevant for OldEr Audiences. It’s an engaging, well-illustrated science textbook offering compelling answers to big questions, like “how did the universe form?” And “what causes earthquakes?” It’s also a plea for readers of all ages to approach mysteries with rigor and curiosity.Dawkins’s antagonistic (and, to me, overzealous) view of religion has earned him a lot of angry critics, but I consider him to be one of the great scientific writer / explainers of all time.

If what?, by Randall Munroe. The subtitle of the book is “Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” and that’s exactly what it is. People write Munroe with questions that range over all fields of science: physics, chemistry, biology. Questions like, “From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” (The answer, it turns out, is “high enough that it would disintegrate before it hit the ground.”) Munroe’s explanations are funny, but the science underpinning his answers is very accurate. It’s an entertaining read, and you’ll also learn a bit about things like ballistics, DNA, the oceans, the atmosphere, and lightning along the way.

XKCD, by Randall Munroe. A collection of posts from Munroe’s Blog XKCD, which is made up of Cartoons he Draws making fun of things-Mostly Scientists and Computers, But lots of Other things too. There’s One About Scientists holding A Press Conference to Reveal Their discovery That Life is arsenic-based. They research press conferences and find out that sometimes it’s good to serve food that’s related to the subject of the conference. The last panel is all the reporters dead on the floor because they ate arsenic. It’s that kind of humor, which not everybody loves, but I do.

On Immunity , by Eula Biss. When I stumbled across this book on the Internet, I thought it might be a worthwhile read. I had no idea what a pleasure reading it would be. Biss, an essayist and university lecturer, examines what lies behind people’s fears of vaccinating their children. Like many of us, she concludes that vaccines are safe, effective, and almost miraculous tools for protecting children against needless suffering. But she is not out to demonize anyone who holds opposing views. This is a thoughtful and beautifully written book about a very important topic.

How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff. I Picked up this Short, Easy-to-Read Book after Seeing it on A Wall Street Journal list of good Books for Investors . I enjoyed it so much That it WAS One of A Handful of Books I recommended to everyone at TED this year. It was first published in 1954, but aside from a few anachronistic examples (it has been a long time since bread cost 5 cents a loaf in the United States), it does not feel dated. One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons-a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days. A useful introduction to the use of statistics, and a helpful refresher for anyone who is already well versed in it.

Should We Eat Meat?, by Vaclav Smil. The richer the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet. How do we square this circle? Vaclav Smil takes his usual clear-eyed view of the whole landscape, from meat’s role in human evolution to hard questions about animal cruelty. While it would be great if people wanted to eat less meat, I do not think we can expect large numbers of people to make drastic reductions. I’m betting on innovation, including higher agricultural productivity and the development of meat substitutes, to help the world meet its need for meat. A timely book, though probably the least beach-friendly one on this list.

You can get more ideas from Bill Gates at Gates Notes.

If you’re looking to do some more DIY education this summer, don’t miss the following rich collections:

630 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

700 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices.

1100 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

via Electric Literature

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Windows and OS X are malware, claims Richard Stallman


Linux GNU firebrand Richard Stallman says Windows and Apple's OS X are malware, Amazon is Orwellian, and anyone who trusts the internet-of-things is an ass.

In a column for The Guardian Stallman preaches to the non-technical masses about the evils of proprietary software and vendor lock-in, and how closed-door coding facilitates clandestine deals with nation state spy agencies.

"What kinds of programs constitute malware? Operating systems, first of all," Stallman testifies.

"Apple systems are malware too: MacOS snoops and shackles; iOS snoops, shackles, censors apps and has a backdoor.

"Even Android contains malware in a nonfree component: a back door for remote forcible installation or deinstallation of any app."

Stallman references a a Bloomberg report in saying Microsoft "sabotages" Windows users by disclosing vulnerabilities to the NSA before patches are released.

It isn't just Windows and MacOS – we think he means Apple's OS X – that Stallman brands malware: Barbie dolls, smart TVs, and cars also earn his ire thanks to the potential for marketers to secretly pry on a child's worst fears or listen in to lounge room conversations.

Stallman makes a valid if perhaps less hyperbolic point; that many commercial software houses are notoriously focused on time-to-market and at best bolt security checks on at the end of development, if at all.

The dash for cash also means patching is patchy. Vendors rarely pay much attention to shuttering security vulnerabilities created as a result of the bolt-on security ideology, and pay less still to discovering holes in their products.

There are of course many exceptions, with large and small organisations running bug bounties and working to harden code.

Yet the problem is bad enough that governments have universally kept crosshairs fixed on hackers who exploit, rather than developers who push out dangerous code.

Open source produce is not immune from vulnerabilities, but its inherent transparency means flaws are more likely to be found and fixed. It also makes the prospect of inserting sneaky backdoors into code a decidedly riskier proposition since it may be more easily found.

We may love our malicious smart phones, social networks, and internet-connected devices, but resistance, Stallman says, is not futile.

"It is fashionable to recognise the viciousness of today’s computing only to declare resistance unthinkable. Many claim that no one could resist gratification for mere freedom and privacy. But it’s not as hard as they say. We can resist:
  • Individually, by rejecting proprietary software and web services that snoop or track.
  • Collectively, by organising to develop free/libre replacement systems and web services that don’t track who uses them.
  • Democratically, by legislation to criminalise various sorts of malware practices. This presupposes democracy, and democracy requires defeating treaties such as the TPP and TTIP that give companies the power to suppress democracy."

How microwaves could help you surf the Internet at the speed of light

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In theory, under the very best conditions, data would be able to travel across the Internet at the speed of light. In reality, as we all know, that doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons such as the fact that we don’t live in a vacuum, bandwidth constraints create bottlenecks, and communication protocols slow things down. However, new research suggests that much of what’s keeping us from surfing at the speed of light is latency caused by the physical infrastructure of the Internet and that there’s a surprisingly cheap and realistic solution to the problem.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Duke University recently looked at the main causes of Internet latency and what it would take to achieve speed-of-light performance in a paper titled Towards a Speed of Light Internet. Reducing latency on the Internet, the authors posit, could have many positive benefits, such as improved user experience, expanded use of thin clients, and better geolocation. “We want to push to the limits of that endeavor; speed-of-light is the only *fundamental* limit,” one of the paper’s authors, Ankit Singla, who will soon be joining the faculty at ETH Zürich, told me via email. “Our work is an examination of why this is worth doing, and what it might take.”

Infrastructure latency is the main culprit

To get a sense for just how much slower than the speed of light the Internet currently is, Singla and his colleagues measured the time it took to fetch the index page HTML of 28,000 top web sites from clients at 186 locations around the world in December 2014 (SSL sites were not included for this study). Using the time it would take light to make the round trip between the client and the web server as a baseline, they found that the median fetch time was about 35 times as long it would take light to travel the same distance, while the fetch time for 80th percentile was more than 100 times as long.

To find out where the slowdowns were coming from, the researchers also broke down the fetch time by various steps: The median DNS-lookup time was 7.4 times as long it would take light to travel the same distance, TCP handshakes were 3.4x, request responses 6.6x, and TCP data transfers 10.2x. However, while it seems the overhead associated with these protocols is causing the bulk of the delay, it turns out that much of it is really coming from the latency of the underlying infrastructure, which works in a multiplicative way by affecting each step in the request. When the researchers adjusted for the median ping time from clients to servers, 3.2 times longer than what it would take light to travel the same distance, the true protocol overheads dropped to 2.3x for DNS-lookup, 1.1x for the TCP handshake, 1.0x for the request response, and 3.2x for the TCP transfer.

In other words, if the underlying infrastructure latency could be removed, without making any improvements to protocol overhead, the speed of the Internet could be brought down from what is often more than two orders of magnitude slower than the speed of light to just one order of magnitude slower, or less. As the authors wrote in the paper, “inflation at the lower layers plays a big role in Internet latency inflation.”

A cheap and easy speed-of-light Internet

The second part of the paper proposes what turns out to be a relatively cheap and potentially doable solution to bring Internet speeds close to the speed of light for the vast majority of us. The authors propose creating a network that would connect major population centers using microwave networks. Why microwaves? Because microwave networks have already proven to be extremely fast and (somewhat) reliable. For example, microwaves are used to transfer data at nearly the speed of light between financial markets in Chicago and New York City for high frequency trading, where minimal latency is critical, with 95% reliability. Also, other potential solutions, such as hollow fiber and line-of-sight optics, aren’t yet mature enough (or cheap enough) for consideration.

The drawback with microwave is low bandwidth. To get around that, their solution would rely on the microwave network between cities for web and data traffic for which minimal latency is important. Other things for which latency isn't as critical, like video consumption (which is currently 78% of web traffic), could continue to use existing infrastructure, so congestion wouldn’t be an issue. Traditional fiber would be used to bring data to users up to 100km away from the microwave endpoints; even at that distance, the latency introduced by fiber would be minimal.

The authors estimate that the cost of creating a network that would bring near speed-of-light Internet performance to 85% the U.S. population using microwave repeaters on existing towers would be a mere $253 million in set-up costs and $96 million a year in operational expenses. That's a relatively small investment compared to the billions of dollars currently being spent to lay new fiber optic cables across the Arctic Ocean.

Of course, there are potential issues with such an implementation. For example, getting approval from the FCC to use existing towers for microwave is not a given. Also, some applications are both latency-sensitive and high-bandwidth, so this solution may not work for those at scale. Setting up microwave networks across oceans to expand beyond the U.S. wouldn’t be simple, either.

All in all, though, Singla and his colleagues feel that their proposed solution is not unrealistic.

“We think this setup with two parallel networks — the current fiber backbone which provides huge bandwidth, but higher latency; and a microwave-based network that provides nearly speed-of-light latency, but much lower bandwidth — is very interesting,” he said, “and a plausible way of getting a lot of the benefits of low-latency networking at very little cost.”

They also feel that, whatever the ultimate solution, a speed-of-light Internet isn’t just a pipe dream, but something that we will have someday. “I think this will eventually happen,” Singla told me, "the challenge for us is to make it happen *soon*, for example, getting really close to speed-of-light latencies within a decade, at least within certain geographies."

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