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Gates predicts death of the office phone

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Bill Gates has been banging the communications convergence and new media drum for business leaders, telling chief executives the PC is the phone of the future.

Opening his company's annual CEO Summit at the Redmond, Washington, campus Gates envisioned the death of the desktop phone, as PCs take on phone-like functionality and integrated communications are provided through applications like the upcoming Office Communicator 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

"You'll have the PC with a phone peripheral and then you'll have your mobile phone. And the mobile phone and that PC will be working together in a rich way," he said.

Gates thinks the feature and functionality gap between PCs and mobile devices will close, as PCs shrink and take on new form factors and mobiles - including (shock name check) the iPod - or "other navigation dev,ices" get things like bigger screens. And he still thinks his pet personal project, the wildly unpopular Tablet PC, will see mainstream adoption one day.

"I tend to believe that the phone will move up and the PC will move down and there won't be any special devices categories, because the power of being able to run any applications, wither it's media, reading, navigation, is very strong," Gates said.

Continuing the convergence and "new methods of communications" theme, Gates tackled online video as a way to reach customers and developers. he singled out his company's Channel 9 service, where Microsoft staffers equipped with video cameras wander the halls of Redmond interviewing product managers and developers for a predominantly developer audience, as the way to go.

Channel 9 is an effective way to get developers excited about Microsoft products and gather feedback. And with four million "unique developers" tuning in, it has a larger viewership than most cable TV channels, he said. Microsoft is starting a similar effort for broader users on Office, offering advice on best practices, he revealed: "We're just at the beginning of that." ®

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