Bill Gates uses a Surface Pro. And other things we learned from his first AMA

Bill Gates AMA Lead

Bill Gates just wrapped up his first AMA on Reddit. In that little PSA post we did a few hours back, one commenter (who wasn’t familiar with Reddit) asked if we could grab the questions and answers. You know we’re a push overs for you guys, ask and you shall receive. Here are all the questions and answers from Bill himself.

A quick note about the following before we jump in. You’ll get confused really fast if you read this like it was a typical interview between two people, mostly because it isn’t. An AMA is a collection of a bunch of questions asked by folks on the internet and answered by one person. There really isn’t any narrative or flow to the following, just Bill answering some questions. I’ll do my best to order it so that there is context where Bill does follow up any question to an answer.

Question: Hi, welcome to reddit! What are your thoughts on the push against the open and free Internet that we have been seeing in the recent past and present (such as sopa, etc)? (

Bill Gates: There are two things this could reference. One is the free/pay for software mix. The Internet has benefited from having lots of free stuff and lots of commercial software. It has been interesting see people inventing hybrid models. Even stuff that is pretty commercial often has free versions for some audiences. Even the most open stuff often have services people choose to pay for.

The second thing is the anonymous versus identified tension. This is another one where both will probably thrive since you want anonymity for some things and full identity for others. I am surprised how little progress has been made in the identity space but it will improve.

Question: What do people give you for your birthday, given that you can buy anything you want?

Bill Gates: Free software. Just kidding. Books actually.

Question: Oh! What's your favorite book?

Bill Gates: My favorite of the last decade in Pinker's Better Angels of our Nature. It is long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time. I review a lot of the books I read at (is that too self-promotional?)

Question: What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market?

Bill Gates: We had a rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release that was before its time. This is an idea that will remerge since your cloud store will be rich with schema rather than just a bunch of files and the client will be a partial replica of it with rich schema understanding.

Question: Possibly WinFS? I always wanted to see what happened to that.

Bill Gates: Correct!

Question: Since becoming wealthy, what's the cheapest thing that gives you the most pleasure?

Bill Gates: Kids. Cheap cheeseburgers. Open Course Ware courses...

Question: Where are you acquiring these cheap kids from?

Bill Gates: The stork.

Question: How have other extremely wealthy people reacted to your excessively generous philanthropy?

Bill Gates: I have enjoyed meeting other philanthropists and talking about what they work on. I think there is a movement to do more, start sooner and be smarter about giving. Philanthropy is mostly about a broad set of people giving but it helps if the most wealthy set a strong example...

Question: I'm not Bill Gates, but he has made a huge positive influence. Many wealthy people I know point to Bill Gates as their idol. Not for his Microsoft days, but for his philanthropy. He also simultaneously killed many of my friend's hundred million dollar trust funds after their parents discovered that Bill was only leaving $10 million for his children.

Bill Gates: I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favor to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right. Some people disagree with this but Melinda and I feel good about it.

Question: Do you still code ?, if so which language ? :)

Bill Gates: Not as much as I would like to. I write some C, C# and some Basic. I am surprised new languages have not made more progress in simplifying programming. It would be great if most high school kids were exposed to programming...

Question: First of all: Thank you for all you've given and all you've done to make the world a better place. Given the recent targeting of health professionals in Pakistan and Nigeria, do you think eradication of polio is attainable in the next decade? How is the Gates Foundation going to get over this barrier to eradication? Also, what is your opinion on the anti-vaccination movement in general?

Bill Gates: The violence against the vaccinators in both Pakistan and Nigeria is a terrible thing. However both countries are committed to finishing the eradication. This is the project I spent most of my time on. We should be able to finish by 2018 although that will require raising funds and some great execution. We have some innovations like the way we use satellite maps to find all the villages and GPS tracking to make sure the teams go to every hut that are helping out. Polio is a harder disease than smallpox was but it is doable. (I discuss this more at and you can learn more about the progress against polio with this infographic)

Question: What type of computer are you using right now?

Bill Gates: I just got my Surface Pro a week ago and it is very nice.

I am using a Perceptive Pixel display right now - huge Windows 8 touch whiteboard. These will come down in price over time and be pervasive...

(Dan pointed something interesting out, Bill G's computer looks similar to this badass one we played with at CES)

Question 1: What one Microsoft program or product that was never fully developed or released do you wish had made it to market? Question 2 (another user replying to the first question): Vista

Bill Gates: Vista was what eventually shipped but Winfs had been dropped by then.

Question: Can you still jump over chairs?

Bill Gates: Less than I used to. It was part of exercise for snow skiing. I still ski but I am not as hard core...

Question: Do you guys really use Bing? I mean seriously...

Bill Gates: Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.

Question: What emerging technology today do you think will cause another big stir for the average consumer in the same way that the home computer did years ago?

Bill Gates: Robots, pervasive screens, speech interaction will all change the way we look at "computers". Once seeing, hearing, and reading (including handwriting) work very well you will interact in new ways..

Question: How was your relationship with Steve jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.

Bill Gates: He and I respected each other. Our biggest joint project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away...

Question: Which world-wide health cause are we perfectly capable of easily solving and on the cusp of achieving but just need to put it over the top with a little more attention or resources to actually solve?

Bill Gates: Polio is the first thing to get done since we are close. Within 6 years we will have the last case. After that we will go after malaria and measles. Malaria kills over 500,000 kids every year mostly in Africa and did not get enough attention until the last decade. We also need vaccines to prevent HIV and TB which are making progress...

Question: What is something that needs to be changed in the world, but money wont help?

Bill Gates: It would be nice if all governments were as rational as the Nordic governments - reaching compromise and providing services broadly. The Economist had a nice special section on this last week. Africa governments have often been weak but you can't write a check to change that. Fortunately the average quality is going up. Mo Ibrahim tracks this in a great way.          

Question: First of all, thanks Mr. Gates for doing this. I’ve been a fan of you since I was a little kid, taking solace in your success as a professional nerd and philanthropist. If Microsoft didn’t take off, what would you have done and be doing instead? You are a leader in the ultra-wealthy philanthropists, but what do you think that people of median income can do to help improve the world the most?

Bill Gates: If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math but it is hard to say. Most giving is done by the middle class so it is the backbone of generosity particularly in the United States. A key thing is to support government aid which is only 1% of the budget but helps poor countries in incredible ways.

Question: I just wanted to say thanks for responding to my letter that I wrote to you in the second grade. I still have your autograph. Out of all the celebrities that were written to in my class you were the only to to respond. Thanks for making me the coolest second grader for a little while.

Bill Gates: I am glad you kept it!

Question: How do you measure the success of the foundation? How does the foundation differ from other large philanthropic organizations? Thanks for all that you and Melinda have done and continue to do!

Bill Gates: Our goals are focused on helping the poorest (globally) and improving education (in the US). We spend half of our money on global health. One metric to look at is reducing the number of children (under 5) who die. My annual letter talks about the amazing progress that has been made on this. Amazingly as health improves families choose to have less kids so paradoxically population growth goes DOWN as you improve health helping with almost every issue - from stability to the environment.. The Rosling video I posted on Sunday talks about this.

Question: What is the greatest achievement of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in your opinion and how do you choose which causes to support?

Bill Gates: So far our biggest impact has been getting vaccines for things like diarrhea and pneumonia out which has saved millions of lives. Polio will be a great achievement along with key partners when that gets done.

Question: Is Weezer still your favorite band?

Bill Gates: Weezer.... Actually U2 is a favorite.. I keep waiting for Spinal Tap to go back on tour...

Question: Hi Mr. Gates,

The anti-vaccine movement does not only exist in developing countries, such as Pakistan, but is quite popular here in the United States as well. As a result, the number of flu and whooping cough cases are bigger than ever. Are you planning on working domestically as well? edit for related question: Which countries do you think serve as models for their initiatives towards an overall healthier society? ie. who's doing the best?

Bill Gates: Vaccines are very important in all countries. Some of the bad rumors have lead to kids dying of measles and pertussis. We have backed some information campaigns on the importance of vaccination even in the US. The Nordic countries do a good job on health like they do on many things...

Question: Hi Bill, I have a few questions for you: 1) I'm from India. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges India currently faces that's hindering its progress? 2) At what point did you decide that it was time to retire and put the Microsoft part of your life behind you and focus completely on philanthropy? 3) Lastly, have you been involved at all with Microsoft after your retirement? Maybe helped them out a bit? P.S. I've been a huge fan of you since I was a kid. Maybe I'll get a chance to meet you one day!

Bill Gates: India is making progress but there is still a lot to do particularly up in the North. They still need to add some of the vaccines that poorer countries are already using and saving lots of lives. India did a great job on polio and is increasing the health budget. We work closely with the federal and state governments to help out...

Question: What do you do for fun? I find it hard to fathom how someone like you can just disconnect. Disconnect from the emails, calls ,the media. All of it. What would be your definition of a chill and fun day?

Bill Gates: I love playing tennis. I am an avid bridge player (a card game if you have not heard of it - it was more popular in the past!). I like to tour interesting things with my kids like power plants, garbage dumps, the Large Hadron Collider, Antarctica, missile Silos (Arizona),... I read a lot and watch courses (online or the Learning Company)..

Question: What's your worst fear for the future of the world? (edit: I terms of policy/politics/etc -- e.g. SOPA/ITU)

Bill Gates: Hopefully we won't have terrorists using nuclear weapons or biological weapons. We should make sure that stays hard. I am disappointed more isn't being done to reduce carbon emissions. Governments need to spend more on basic energy R&D to make sure we get cheap non-CO2 emitting sources as soon as possible. Overall I am pretty optimistic. Things are a lot better than they were 200 years ago..

Question: How did you feel about your portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley, and who do you want to play you next in a movie?

Bill Gates: That portrayal was reasonably accurate....

Question: Hi Bill, I am just wondering what your thoughts are on Windows 8. Do you think in general it has failed? I am not saying it has, but there are people saying it is not good, and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

Bill Gates: It is a huge advance for Windows which people will see even more as the great applications and hardware come out..

Question: Anything left on your bucket list?

Bill Gates: Don’t die…

Question: Did you ever own a Macintosh?

Bill Gates: Microsoft does a lot of software for the Mac. I mostly use Windows machines but from time to time I have tried all of Apple products.

Question: Windows 7 or Windows 8? Be honest Bill.

Bill Gates: Higher is better.

Question: What is your view on the world's reliance on crude oil, and will you be investing into researching other sources of energy?

Bill Gates: I did a TED talk about the climate crisis. Over time we have to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions so using fossil fuels will require us to do carbon capture and sequestration. There has been far too little work on this.

Question: Mr. Gates I was happy to see you last year at the Math Strategy Group at Sunnylands. My question is how do you see technology enhancing Mathematics education without actually replacing it?

Bill Gates: The ability to test your knowledge and get refreshed on a topic you are making mistakes on will personalize a lot of the learning experience. People like Sal Khan are out in front figuring out how to do this well. My foundation has funded a lot of MOOCs focused on community college kids or kids who have to take remedial math. I am optimistic these will make a big difference.

So what did we learn from all this? Well, Bing is better than Google, U2 is his favorite band, and he is currently rocking a Surface Pro. Of course Bill would wrap up his first ever AMA with the following picture:

Bill Gates last AMA image

Source: Reddit AMA

Sam Sabri
  • "Higher is better." Yo I feel that Bill.
  • Lol
  • I guess that's why vista didn't have a number assigned to it HAHA!!!
  • -_-
  • Regardless what the media say, Vista is a great operation system. People tend to follow what everybody say, doesn't mean that is the truth.
  • Really dude? That OS was a service heavy resource hog. I am not a prototypical media regurgitating moron... I personally had to fix dozens of machines running VISTA and I assure you its total crap. Win7 is what VISTA was supposed to be... And that's the truth!
  • Word.
    From time to time MS publishes a product that, despite including a good vision, is not complete yet. The Vista UI was a half-baked good idea that was completed in Windows 7. The performance issues were also the result of the departure from XP that wasn't yet complete.
    If you ask me, Windows 8 has got the performance thing down, but again, the UI is a half-baked departure from Aero.
    My personal opinion is that it will take some time for MS to realize the Modern UI and the desktop need to be separated a bit more with the Modern part used on touchscreen devices. I give you one example on why I believe the UI is half baked:
    Try to create a new VPN connection. When you want to enter the username and password through the side menu (charms) you can't copy and paste the password from a text file, because the moment the menu loses focus to the desktop, it hides and clears the username you entered. This is a ridiculous design with the design team not seeing a very simple scenario.
    Hopefully with time the OS matures; but as the market gets more competitive it becomes harder and harder for the consumer to tolerate such shortcomings and MS will need to increase its performance to avoid such mistakes altogether. 3 years, i think, should be enough for a huge company to publish a product that feels complete.
  • I was hoping for Snoop Dog to jump in at any moment after that reply.
  • Bill will go down in history as one of the greats. People will talk about him 200 years from now because of his philanthropy. All the technical stuff will be forgotten.
  • True.
  • Philanthropy is good, but much of his logic seems to stem from a view of limitless resources as do those of others on the left. Follow Nordic Governments? A small, wealthy stable society of a unified socialist culture is not exactly a model that would work for vastly different countries, especially those that pride themselves on welcoming in millions of poor immigrants and many cultures and backgrounds. There needs to be self-sufficiency to avoid resentment and division from redistribution and to ensure a financially sustainable society continues. Spend more on alternative energy? The current spending has much to do with the worldwide government deficits and borrowing. I could go on, but his perspective is in line with many others who seem to have a fiscal view that is broader than can be accomplished within the cultures and peoples they refer to. It is nice he spends his money where he feels there is need. Perhaps a greater emphasis for giving from individuals would be more in line with his example. More government spending does not typically change cultures. Some seem to think that there are no cultural challenges that cannot be overcome by an authoritarian government, but history has seen the failure of this idea also.
  • OK then it is settled. We will not spend more on alternative energy research and keep using oil until it is over and then we'll die, ending the human species and the suffering along with it. Problem solved.
    I don't know why people don't thank visionaries such as yourself but keep saying good stuff about idiots like Gates who have done much less than throwing a random, senseless comment out there.
  • Way to use a grossly exaggerated counter-example to make a point... ironic how your comment was increasingly more senseless than Paul's - whose argument culminates in a suggestion that private spending on the part of wealthy individuals could be a key third-party resource in alternative energy (among other things) efforts...
    He finishes by praising Bill's spending effort but doubts the example of a Nordic Government could apply in every if not any other country... that makes plenty of sense...
  • He is obviously objecting to the idea of governments spending money on anything, and the idea comes primarily from a Capitslist mindset prevalent among Republican Americans. You can see it specifically in his objection to government spending, because that issue is primarily the focus of anti-communist warmongers who have no problem with spending trillions on wars but god forbid the government spends money on the reduction of CO2, climate change or research on alternative energy sources.
    To you it may seem like I was being agressive for no reason at all, but I've encountered enough of this nonsense to see the motivation behind such arguments.
    Basically, many Americans think because their government has so much debt that no government should spend anything on anything anymore. Couple that with their anti-socialist attitude and you see the pattern.
  • AgentTheGreat, I couldn't agree more with you.  
    The idea that government should make huge cuts to spending and individuals must be self-reliant for all things like medical care, insurance, etc is simply ridiculous. In an ideal world where everyone is on equal footing and well educated that might have some relevance, but that is not the world we live in.  There are many people who simply do not have the opportunity to obtain these things.
    And leaving everything up to the states is also ridiculous... the duplication of effort alone will make for so much wasted money it is simply crazy.  
  • I would like to see what you have done AgentheGreat.
  • Shit, they'll be talking about how I set up my live tiles. Now that's something!!
  • What about Steve the devil? Oh wait he's dead.
  • You're quite the dickhead now aren't you?
  • What's AMA?
  • American Motorcycle Association
  • Are you serious??? It's actually American Medical Association.
  • Ask and ye shall receive - here :P
  • A.M.A: Ask Me Anything
  • It seems to be a stupid made up word for a Q&A Chat.
  • Ask me anything.
  • Please Bing it next time to avoid any funny and offensive response from this forum. Some of the responses made me laugh my head off though.
  • LOL! You were not expecting him to say "No, I use an iPad and I prefer Windows 7" were you ? Even if both cases are true he would never admit such thing.
  • He already said years ago that a tablet makes no sense to him if it's not capable of proper work. So no, I don't think he prefers an overblown iPod. Windows 8 is more secure, faster, has more features and is more versatile=better. The new UI needs work though.
  • I love him! Especially the fact that he still spends time actively learning! Such an inspiration!
  • I think msft froth and success a bit of a decade ago pit out a negative view on him.... History will do right by him.... Al so taking about history... what mfst did is in the anti trust days... in some extend some extend is quite weak sauce comparing to what apple and Google does these days
  • He is such an amazing person, I wish more people did philanthropy with the same attitude. There comes a time where you can have all the money in the world and you could own whatever material things you wanted but I bet you still wouldn't be happy. I love the fact that Bill and Melinda work so actively on global affairs, their generous giving will cement their identities far into the future if not for the length of the human race. I wish more people like bill and melinda were around, so many tycoons are out there yet little is known of if any of their aid in giving. Either way all the Negativity Microsoft gets for no reason whatsoever who in their right mind would ever dare say anything bad against the company, yes they played a monopoly and dirty business caused many others to fail but at the end of the day we are lucky to have those who were involved doing so much good for the planet.
  • Thanks Sam!
  • +1
  • I think from his answers he confirmed that Weezer is his favorite and that he also likes U2.
  • I like the fact that for fun he tours garbage dumps with his kids. :) It's interesting that he likes his portrayal in Pirates of Silicon Valley. That is such a good movie, good to hear when the principals say it is accurate, especially with all the dumb Jobs movies coming out soon trying to change history.
  • Thanks so much, Sam! This was great, now I wish I enjoyed it live. That last bit at the end--brilliant, glad he has a great sense of humor even at his stature :D
  • No one asked him...what phone he is currently using !! Lumia or ????
  • i would assume he is using a windows phone. he said he usually uses windows products and sometimes uses apples products.
  • i have never read an article about bill gates saying he sometimes use apple products in fact non of bill gates family uses apple products
  • i did  but he didn't answer
    you could try to ask him through twitter :d
    i remember when windows phone 7 released bill gates had samsung focus
  • He has an iphone.
  • So copy and paste from reddit then?
  • Exactly. I didn't beat around the bush, first sentence said this was for a reader who wasn't familiar with how Reddit worked and just wanted the question and answers. 
  • I was hoping he would show up in his Iron Man outfit. He's the real Tony Stark.
  • Wrong.  CTRL+F "Tony Stark":
  • Eh. I still think Bill has an iron man suit. Then again hr may be more Bruce Wayne than Tony Stark. In which case Bill must have a killer Windows 8 Bat Cave and jet car. Hmmm.
  • I want to be like bill gates when I grow up...this dude inspires me
  • bummed i missed it. i would have asked him if WP would be a better product if he were still involved because i think it would be.
  • Bill gates is ultra popular now...history will judge him ahead of jobs.... And his philanthropy is unparallelled
  • who the hell is jobs?
  • that's a stupid comparison. it's like saying who's more popular Morgan Freeman or Steve Jobs? Both Bill and Steve have been momumental in their own areas. People still remember Jobs for all the tech related things he's done and people will remember Gates for all the philanthropy.
    People will also remember the anti-competitive Microsoft which was taken to court and which irrepairably tarnished their reputation somewhat under Bill Gates. All the nagative vibe that usually people associate with Microsoft was created under the rule of Bill Gates.
  • I wanna know if he plays xbox and what's he's Gamertag !
  • xXTheOriginalGXx
  • The jumping over chairs question made me laugh my ass off, not so literally.
  • You have seen the video, right? RIGHT?! 
  • Bill Gates has a depopulation agenda with his "foundation". Don't believe the hype, this guy is a globalist and doesn't care about these kids in Africa. Watch his TED presentation on YouTube where he says himself that there's too much humans in this planet and we should do something about it with vaccines, yeah deadly vaccines. He even laugh about it on stage. This guy is a monster with a liberal cover. Never respected him, after I learned this.
  • UN, Bill Gates Foundation Push Deadly HPV Shots on Poor Nations Under GAVI Alliance
  • Wow, English isn't my native language and even I know what he meant. Like he said on reddit, paradoxically providing better health services in countries leads to lower population levels because people are having less kids NOT because the vaccines themselves are killing people.
  • Anybody else feel like watching Pirates of Silicon Valley again after seeing his response? :D
    I could be wrong here, but I don't think he's EVER commented on that movie before. Awesome.