Bill Gates: WhatsApp was pricey, Office needs 'more than a tuneup'

Few people have a truly macroscopic perspective on the tech industry, and for decades, Bill Gates was one of them. Now, he’s moved into an even broader role—trying to help architect society for the better.

Late Thursday, Rolling Stone published an interview with Gates: a broad, sweeping look at everything from his thoughts on tech to how he views his work from a moral and even a religious perspective. We’ve argued before that Gates’ work as the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is more important than his work at Microsoft—which, incidentally, he barely mentioned.

So what tech topics did Gates touch upon? Here are the highlights.

Gates’ dream came true, but things haven’t moved as fast as expected. PCs are prevalent, and not just on desktops. But Gates’ vision isn’t perfect. “There are less robots now than I would have guessed,” he said. “Vision and speech have come a little later than I had guessed. But these are things that will probably emerge within five years, and certainly within 10 years.”

Microsoft was interested in WhatsApp. ”Yeah, yeah. Microsoft would have been willing to buy it, too. . . . I don’t know for $19 billion, but the company’s extremely valuable,” Gates said.

Gates sees a kindred spirit in Mark Zuckerberg.  “He’s more of a product manager than I was. I’m more of a coder, down in the bowels and the architecture, than he is,” Gates said. “But, you know, that’s not that major of a difference. I start with architecture, and Mark starts with products, and Steve Jobs started with aesthetics.”

Office needs an overhaul. ”Office and the other Microsoft assets that we built in the Nineties and kept tuning up have lasted a long time,” Gates told Rolling Stone. ”Now, they need more than a tuneup.”

Gates has nuanced views of privacy. ”Should there be cameras everywhere in outdoor streets? My personal view is having cameras in inner cities is a very good thing.”

But Snowden went too far in trying to spotlight the issue. ”I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn’t characterize him as a hero,” Gates said.

Innovation is at an all-time high, at least in California. ”Innovation in California is at its absolute peak right now,” Gates said. “Sure, half of the companies are silly, and you know two-thirds of them are going to go bankrupt, but the dozen or so ideas that emerge out of that are going to be really important.”

For more—a lot more—read the rest of the interview.

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