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英語沙龍

英文21世紀報

英文鎖定

中國日報(英文版)

 

 

It's the Near-future That Counts 

    Close observers of Microsoft will not be surprised that Mr Gates reveals no startling new vision. Indeed, he acknowledges this. Two decades ago he embraced the idea of ubiquitous computers by asking "What if computing were nearly free?" Now he asks "what if communicating were nearly free?" The difference: "Then I was afraid others would have the same vision we did; today I know thousands do." His genius has never consisted in seeing further than anyone else, but in seeing the near-future more clearly, and understanding much better than his competitors how to exploit it. Time and again, Microsoft has recognised the potential in someone else's idea and simply done it better, always in marketing and, less often, in design.
    When he was young, Mr Gates wanted to be an economist. In a sense, he became one anyway. Microsoft is not a success because Mr Gates is a good prophet or even a good programmer but because of his grasp of the economics of information, where digital copying and computer networks push manufacturing and distribution costs close to zero. He understood early on that in a new high-tech market consumers seek security by flocking to the products of the market leader. Market share, he realised, was everything. So in his very first deal with IBM, to supply an operating system for the firm's personal computer, he charged a low initial fee on the condition that he would get revenues from each sale, a the right to license the product to other manufacturers.
    Now the market is changing once again, from the world of the desktop computer to the "information highway" (which Mr Gates rightly says is better described as an information marketplace). In this new world, fast-rising companies such as Netscape and Sun Microsystems really did see the future before anyone else. typically, Microsoft quickly adjusted, redesigning many of its products and marketing them as the best route to the Internet. The question is not whether Mr Gates can strain to see even further---the evidence so far suggests not ---but whether his skill at making money in the slipstream of other people's technological vision will serve him as well in the next decade as it has for the past two.  

       
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