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Gates: Hardware, Not Software, Will Be Free 993

orthogonal writes "That's small-'f', not capital-'F' free: according to Bill Gates, "Ten years out, in terms of actual hardware costs you can almost think of hardware as being free -- I'm not saying it will be absolutely free --...." Gates expects this almost free hardware to support two of the longest awaited breakthroughs in computing: real speech and handwriting recognition. He further predicts -- ugh! -- that software will not be written but visually designed."
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Gates: Hardware, Not Software, Will Be Free

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  • ...although he's a bit behind the curve. For example:

    He [...] predicts [...] that software will not be written but visually designed

    He's just predicted Visual BASIC post factum. Whoopee. (-:
  • Re:Visual design (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1781 ( 728831 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:19AM (#8713378)
    Ah, yes. Jest about it, but the UML-people has been working on visual programming for years. Perhaps there is a mutual interest... UMSL?
  • Re:Another Quote (Score:5, Informative)

    by e6003 ( 552415 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:19AM (#8713380) Homepage
    To be fair, it seems the (in)famous Gates 640K quote is an urban legend [].
  • Too Cheap To Meter (Score:5, Informative)

    by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:25AM (#8713437) Homepage Journal
    Is this kind of like in the 50s when some expert said that nuclear power was going to make electricity free?

    Not "free": the exact phrase, from Lewis Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, was:

    "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter." []

    ... which turned out to be overly optimistic.

  • Re:Hrmmmm.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gkuz ( 706134 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:36AM (#8713566)
    At current list prices, the software is already more expensive than the hardware in the server space. Microsoft Windows 2003 Enterprise Server lists for $4k with 25 Client Access Licenses (CALs). Each additional 20 CALS costs $799. So an approximately 100-user server will run you over $7k (at list) for MS software licensing. Dell or HP will sell you quite a nice server for less than $7k.

    Spare me the obligatory replies about how much cheaper you can do all this with white-box hardware and Linux -- I'm not talking about that, I'm trying to add context to BillG's pronunciamento.

  • C is dead once more? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:38AM (#8713584)
    He further predicts -- ugh! -- that software will not be written but visually designed."

    I guess that means C is dead again. :(

    /will rtfa next time
  • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Informative)

    by MacJedi ( 173 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:42AM (#8713611) Homepage
    Actually the Soviet Union did use nukes for mining and creating canals... Check out this link [] (scroll down to the bottom.)
  • Re:I hope not (Score:3, Informative)

    by AntonyBartlett ( 644248 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:44AM (#8713638)
    Take the hint from the majority of good Universities who teach computer science, where you are simply expected to pick up a language in your spare time, because that aspect is secondary to the theory, and the easier of the two.

    The difference between theory and practice is very small in theory, but rather large in practice.

  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @10:53AM (#8713736) Journal

    Right now, the display is the big power consumer in portable devices. The processors have been tuned to use minimal power.

    The Scion 5Mx has a B/W LCD screen. How long do the batteries last when the backlight is on????

    When OLED comes to laptops, that will significantly increase battery time.

  • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:15AM (#8713980)
    UML tools like Telelogic Tau go a fair way towards visual software development. There's a long way to go for the whole process to become driven by a completely visual interface though.

    e.g. loper/in dex.cfm

    It'd redefine the word bloat, that's for sure. Probably why Microsoft are interested. Bloat's what they do well.

  • Done already. :-) (Score:3, Informative)

    by flogger ( 524072 ) <non@nonegiven> on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:17AM (#8714005) Journal
    Details can be found Here []

    (Wed Oct 20, '99 ) A researcher at the University of New Mexico has modified the Doom source to visualize processes and kill them! Finally you can really enjoy killing that Netscape process that just won't die!
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:24AM (#8714067) Journal
    You could do this 'visual design' thing years ago with JSP - no, nothing to do with Java, but Jackson Structured Programming.

    Jackson Structured Programming was basically a design method for data processing type programs - things that took an input, did something to it, and emitted output. Think of many programs you'd pipe data through in Unix, and you have the typical type of thing JSP was aimed at. Except JSP was usually used by COBOL programmers for data processing type tasks.

    With JSP, you drew the structure of your input, and the desired output which represented all the sequence, selection and iteration in the data. You'd then take these two structures, and merge them. This merging proccess brought you a program structure - another tree-like diagram. You would then recurse through the tree, turning the program structure into code. The idea was that all the work was done in the design - get the input and output structures right, and you'd have no logical errors in your code. For the kind of things JSP was aimed at, it actually worked very well.

    There were programs available for VAX/VMS which could turn the program structure into compilable COBOL - completely automating the programming step. This was being done well over a decade ago.

    Microsoft will now come up with its own version of JSP, and claim it as a great "innovation" of course :-)
  • Re:Another Quote (Score:4, Informative)

    by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:39AM (#8714262) Homepage
    Bull. Apple conference in 1981. I love how it's been debunked by Bill saying he didn't know. Kinda like how Bob Eubanks claimed for years the "in the butt" urban legend was false... until they found a video of it happening.
  • Re:Visual design (Score:2, Informative)

    by asherh ( 149627 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:40AM (#8714285)
    In the world of chip/FPGA design there's already a choice between visual and textual design. You can either draw a schematic showing how your blocks of logic are connected together or write some code in a language like Verilog, VHDL, or, my favourite, AHDL.

    Beginners frequently start with visual design but soon find that any non-trivial system becomes a mess of nested blocks and wiring. With standard textual design you can build a structured design as you would for a normal program.

    Most importantly, with a textual language you can parameterize objects (think #define and #ifdef) so that you can, for example, change a single constant in a top-level design file and have all the objects relink themselves to take account of the change. This isn't possible in a visual design language.

    Visual design is something that only seems good to non-technical types who have no knowledge of structured code design. I imagine Bill mentioned it to make Microsoft seem innovative to these non-technical readers, I doubt it will ever be seriously used for programming.
  • W3C (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:41AM (#8714295)
    HTML is by no means non standardized. There are standards, they have been around for years. But Microsoft has been ignoring ever since. Hell, they fixed their "interpretation" of the css-box model one month ago!

    Not to mention their buggy css2 implementation. To hell with them!
  • by blorg ( 726186 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @11:59AM (#8714516)
    If you need to use a computer while standing up and walking around for example - I can completely understand why your building inspectors would want one. It's also a lot easier (read more respectful and less distracting to everyone) to use a flat computer in a meeting. It's better for reading the Web while sitting on a sofa. You don't want one to code on however, (in tablet mode at least) or use it for writing a novel. That doesn't mean that they aren't very useful for certain tasks.
  • by The Desert Palooka ( 311888 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:09PM (#8714629)
    Funny enough, it was women on the design team who dubbed it this, not I or any other guy.

  • LabVIEW (Score:4, Informative)

    by ojQj ( 657924 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:52PM (#8715185)
    I would add National Instrument's LabVIEW to your list of visual languages.

    If you are trying to do detailed logic rather than just bring already written libraries together, a visual language may not be worse than something like Java. It may also not be better. I do think it makes a nice programming model for bringing together existing modules of code though. (as in LabVIEW Express)

    Of course, as in any other kind of choice between programming languages, it all depends on the specific problem domain.

  • Re:NOT free (Score:3, Informative)

    by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @12:58PM (#8715256)
    Nuclear waste handling is a political problem, not a practical one. The knowledge of how to handle the waste well is already available. Conventional power, particularly coal, uses the atmosphere as its primary dumping ground after removing some of the waste with scrubbers. Coal puts more radioactivity into the atmosphere per unit of power generated than the total waste from nuclear power.
  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:00PM (#8715283) Homepage
    1. The hardware is locked down, X-box style. Hardware manufacturing is a capital-intensive business. It will not manufacture itself, nor will anyone develop faster/better hardware for free.

    2. Software companies pay the hardware manufacturers to lock down the boxes, which are either sold or rented at subsidized prices to the customer/victims. The whole concept is to quietly deploy DRM while loudly advertising the subsidized pricing.

    3. Visually "designing" an app involves nothing more than choosing the location of toolbars and buttons on IE.

    4. The new PCs are little more than launching platforms for an "MS Office appliance". A fair number of PCs out there exist for the sole purpose of running office. Office is the portion of the M$ empire that is hardest for OSS to elimintate.

    So it all comes down to this: Bill wants to get people focused on saving money via cheap hardware, because he can subsidize that in the short run and lock out competitors in the long run.

    The "Net PC" had this kind of business model. It failed. Those who fail to understand history are condemned to repeat it.

  • psDooM (Score:2, Informative)

    by bribobirb ( 760553 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @01:14PM (#8715495) Homepage
    I think you're talking about psDooM [] (Credit to grub [] as it was posted earlier [])
  • Re:Visual design (Score:2, Informative)

    by asuwish4 ( 645237 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2004 @05:41PM (#8718940)
    As a CS grad, I have to say that I love LabVIEW. It's certainly not perfect, but it allows me to create true parallel looping faster than any text-based language can do.

    I have done my share of C/C++ programming and it has it's merits, but I prefer LabVIEW. The last couple of projects I used it for at work didn't even involve hardware. I just used it like VB.

    I think it would be a good learning tool for beginning programmers to learn about different data structures. You can run a VI in "highlight execution" mode which uses animation on the wiring diagram side to show the order of execution. Great for troubleshooting.

    the debate textual and graphical programming will rage on, but I don't think it will really matter in the future - as long as it all compiles down to machine code.

    NI has a great article [] about how the compiler works.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...