Gates Plans to Spend Remaining Time Focusing on Search

Microsoft chairman and founder Bill Gates said yesterday that he plans on spending his remaining 15 to 18 months of active duty at the company focusing on building the company’s search programs, in a broad sense. Gates announced last year that he would leave his day-to-day duties at Microsoft by the end of 2008, to focus on his philanthropy.

Speaking at the company’s annual Strategic Account Summit for large advertisers and partners, Gates described an evolution of search from being destination-based to being more integrated into the online experience.

When people go to the Internet, they have a task in mind. And it’s not just to see a list of links. This is not a, ‘Hey, I’m paid to go do treasure hunts.’ They want to organize a trip, or learn about a topic, and the idea that we can capture things at that task level, and through the magic of software make that far better. And in particular when it’s where you want to buy something, that the people who want to buy something that the people who want to advertise, who want to offer up that maybe they’re the place that you want to do business with, I think we can make that far better.

I mean, after all, today if you want to do a certain type of transaction, there’s probably a specialized Web site you don’t know about that’s far better than just the general, say, search way of going about. Why can’t we take, by using a platform-type approach, the best of those dedicated sites and bring them in so that you don’t have to click on a tab or anything, you just type your words, and get that domain, those people who are expert are somehow incorporated into that.

So broadly thinking, it’s about search, it’s about buyers and sellers, and that will be my biggest thing. There are some things about getting the tablet driven into the mainstream, and about dramatic things in Office. And some of these will actually be the projects Steve is likely to pick for me to put my part-time work into, even after mid-2008.

Gates is echoing the message sent by Steve Berkowitz, SVP of Microsoft’s Online Services Group, at the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York last month. During his keynote speech there, Berkowitz stressed the distinction between “destination search,” where a user goes to a search site like or to conduct a search, and “convenient search,” where a user searches wherever they are, such as on a page within the MSN portal, using instant messaging or e-mail applications, or from another site or service.

“I believe it’s going to be about where you take the experience of search. I think that’s more of what you’re going to see us continue to do. To create innovative ways to deliver search in the experience you are. I see Microsoft having a great ability to do that,” Berkowitz said.

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