Corporate IT systems still have a long way to evolve before they give firms the tools they need to be truly integrated and efficient at every level, outgoing Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said to an audience of UK business leaders last month.
In his final UK appearance before stepping down from Microsoft, Gates told members of the UK's Institute of Directors that in 30 years technology had come a long way but it was "not even halfway there in terms of building the systems we need to have".
Gates said one the biggest changes that is still to come is how users interacted with devices. "The devices themselves will get a lot smaller, more powerful and connect to the internet," he said. This would radically change how businesses and their staff interact with and use technology, he said.
Microsoft's founder said the evolution of devices would be dictated by an all-pervasive internet, with all devices being capable of automatically going online to plug into resources and share data seamlessly.
Gates also said hosted services like Microsoft's Windows Live and Office Live services pointed the way ahead, with hosted unified communications enabled by products like Microsoft Dynamics CRM likely to become commonplace.
He said integrated interfaces such as those offered by Microsoft Dynamics, which integrate different applications seamlessly in the one environment, are the future, as are devices that users can interact with intuitively, letting them access information using speech, ink and touch.
To illustrate his point, Gates showcased an in-development interactive desktop called Microsoft Surface that lets users access and manipulate information by touching a tabletop screen. The device can also interact with other internet-enabled mobile devices, letting information be transferred from one to the other simply be placing the device on the Surface tabletop.
Gates also hailed the internet as a democratising tool for businesses and consumers that had enabled smaller organisations to compete with larger ones in the market by reducing or eliminating many start-up overheads.