About 80 UK and international press waited on Bill Gates's verdict on the future of the UK and IT today in Cambridge were disappionted by the Microsoft supremo, who gave few details on his concord with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Gates and Blair had met to discuss ways to revamp information technology in the UK. But all Gates told his audience was that Microsoft plans to develop the Teacher Resource Centre. The TRC will be an area on the Web where teachers will be able to exchange experiences gleaned in teaching IT. This effort is part of Blair's much-hyped attempt to realize former prime minister Harold Wilson's decades-old vision of making the "white heat of technology" a key factor in revitalizing Britain as a world leader.
"Teachers should be able to share their work and ideas," Gates said.
Contrary to some reports, Gates did not announce any deal in which he would lend his backing to securing deals that would mean discounted software or hardware going into British schools. "There are special programs for providing education software [already in place]," he said, referring to the discounts available to educational organizations.
However, he did issue a vague promise -- "There's going to be a lot of follow-up to see what we can contribute" -- and he was optimistic about growth in domestic PC ownership here: "The home market is growing up quite a bit. In the US over 40 per cent of households have a PC. If the right things are done, I think that can happen here."
Gates was only slightly more forthcoming on the other hot topic closely being watched here.: the development of the Microsoft Research facility in Cambridge.
"We see a computer that you can talk and use handwriting with," he said.
Gates predicted that nations would develop different laws on what content will be allowed on the Net. He also indicated he expects to see more strong words exchanged over what appears on the Net -- and who gets to see it.
"Technology will never avoid controversy. Books were very controversial in their day," he said. He also said that in the US kids who use PCs watch TV less. You can judge for yourself what's better: interacting with content on the Internet or sitting and watching TV."
Gates also denied that Microsoft has decided to remove Java applets from its own Web site. "The Microsoft Web site actually has Java applets on it -- that's a fact," he insisted. "There are fewer Java applets on Web sites generally."