Microsoft CEO Bill Gates plans to be making software for the rest of his life, thinks cloning is a "bad thing" and doesn't mind being called a nerd, he revealed during an interview with Barbara Walters, the doyenne of American TV interviewers.
The interview, televised on ABC's 20/20 news magazine program, may have been aimed at rehabilitating the image of Gates and Microsoft, which has taken a beating as the company has been seen as behaving with arrogance towards the judge presiding over its struggles with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Although questions from Walters also covered the ongoing investigation into Microsoft by the DOJ, which alleges that the software behemoth is engaged in anticompetitive practices, Gates did not provide any comments that strayed from what company executives have been saying since October when the DOJ filed court papers asking that Microsoft be held in contempt for violating a 1995 consent decree.
The investigation has led to a flurry of negative press, which Walters commented upon along with show co-host Hugh Downs, and also has led to Gates being called the "devil," head of the "evil empire" and "arrogant."
"You have to learn a little bit not to take it too personally," Gates said of the name calling.
He also dismissed DOJ allegations that Microsoft is trying to dominate the Internet browser market and control the Internet.
"This is a great example that competitive rhetoric has gone so far it's actually saying the opposite of the truth," Gates said, adding that the Internet would remain a free forum. "No one is going to control the Internet in any way, shape or form."
Walters promised a glimpse into the future of Microsoft during the segment titled, "The Mind of Bill Gates," which aired after an update about allegations that President Bill Clinton had an affair with then-21-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and a story about a man tagged for years by police as a suspect in the serial killings of more than 40 teenage girls and young women in Texas.
When asked what Microsoft will be up to in 20 years, Gates replied, "Twenty years is a long time in the technology business," and then said that by then voice recognition will be in place and computers will respond to verbal commands and talk back to users.
"It will even be able to tell what mood you're in," Gates said.
"What good is that?" Walters asked.
Gates seemed a bit taken aback by the question and explained that computers will be able to tell if users are interested or bored and can provide either more or less information based on that perception, which will mean that it will be "a lot easier to work with (computers) than it is now."
Much of the segment repeated well-known facts about Gates, who is 42. The richest man in the world, worth US$40 billion, Gates is a Harvard University dropout who spent five weeks in 1975 creating software to run on PCs with college chum Paul Allen. Gates' fascination with computers started when he was in junior high school.
The profile showed video footage of Gates dancing with his bride, Melinda, at their wedding reception (he apparently isn't much of a dancer) and a photograph of him holding his 18-month-old daughter, Jennifer on his lap. Perhaps the most amusing moment came when Walters asked Gates to sing a lullaby that he sings to his daughter and he sang the opening line of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (he's not much of a singer either).
He also revealed that soon after he moved into his $40 million home full of high-tech gadgetry near Seattle he couldn't get a big screen in his bedroom to work properly.
"It was just sitting there shining," Gates said, adding that he tossed a blanket over the screen, but still couldn't get much sleep and finally the next day figured out what was wrong.
In what might have been the ultimate bit of Gates trivia to come out of the interview, viewers learned that he is ambidextrous. He also intends, he said, to give away a lot more of his wealth to charity.
"I don't believe in passing on great wealth to children," said Gates, who also said during the segment that he and his wife want to have at least a couple of more children.
The show pointed out that Gates and his wife have set up a foundation to provide Internet access in public libraries, but Walters also questioned the Microsoft CEO about criticism from media mogul Ted Turner, who contends that Gates should give away more of his money. Turner gave $1 billion to a United Nations program.
"Ted's great and I'm very glad he's given that billion dollars," Gates said, adding, "I don't want to set any artificial milestones" for giving away money.
He said he has given away $500 million already and intends to keep supporting the two foundations he has established.
Walters also asked him about comments made in a Time magazine article that Gates cares only about intellect and not about personal relationships. He said that comment, which he labeled "very unfair" was made by someone who didn't even know him.
"My priority in life is my family," Gates said, adding that families are all about caring and giving.
Gates would not allow Walters to visit him at his family home, but instead the interview was conducted at his "vacation" home on the shore of Hood Canal in Washington State, which he visits without his family twice yearly for what he calls "think weeks."
An unnamed friend told Walters that Gates has so many interests he is liable to turn to doing something else in the future and Walters asked Gates about that. While he has a lot of outside interests, he said, software is his career love. "That's what I'll be doing the rest of my life," he predicted.
After the interview, Walters and Downs, seated in an ABC television network studio, commented on how "tough" the press has been on Gates since the most recent DOJ investigation came to light. Walters said that an ABC poll, for which methodology and details such as how many people were questioned were not provided, found that 60 percent of those queried favor Microsoft over the DOJ.