Microsoft Corp. Chairman
Bill Gates Tuesday predicted the software giant's huge research
budget would double as the computer revolution gathered pace.
Microsoft now boasts one of the corporate world's biggest
annual research and development budgets at $2.6 billion.
Gates, speaking to more than 4,000 customers and software
developers during a two-day visit to Australia, said the
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's long-term research priorities
included artificial intelligence.
"We spend the highest percentage of our revenue on R&D; of
any company in the United States of any size," he told a
seminar at a packed basketball stadium in Melbourne.
"We are spending over $2.6 billion this year and that's up
by a factor of 60 (times) from a decade ago. I can see it more
than doubling in the foreseeable future," he said.
Gates had told a dinner with Australian Prime Minister John
Howard and business leaders Monday night that computers would
speak and, one day, even read people's moods.
"We will also teach the computer to recognize handwriting
and teach it visual recognition," Gates said. "It will
recognize you, tell what sort of facial expression you have
happy, sad or confused. It will be a little bit like interacting
with a human being."
Picking up the theme again Tuesday, Gates said Microsoft
would keep accelerating its research effort at a time when other
big companies were winding back their research budgets.
Microsoft's $2.6 billion research budget for its financial
year ending June 30, 1998, equals almost a quarter of its
1996-97 sales revenue.
The group is in final development of a car-based computer
software that recognizes a limited number of voice commands and
enables a driver to tune the car radio, make a telephone call
and ask directions to a destination without lifting a finger.
But Gates, who speaks with a nasal drawl, said some bugs
still needed to be ironed out.
"I borrowed the 'Auto PC' for a weekend and got very
frustrated when it didn't understand my voice very well," he