Microsoft Founder Bill Gates Talks Tablets, Higher Education

The tech world just isn't the same without Bill Gates being actively involved like he was pre-retirement, but the Microsoft founder still makes time, on occasion, to chat about today's technology trends, even if just in passing. Such was the case when Gates sat down for a conversation with The Chronicle on the topic of higher education. Naturally, the philanthropist had plenty to say on the matter, but he also revealed his thoughts on Microsoft's strategy with the Surface tablet.

Gates was asked how he feels about the idea of giving devices, like tablets, to students and hoping for change, as well as whether or not he thinks slates can really make a difference in education.

"Just giving people devices has a horrible track record," Gates responded. "You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it's never going to work on a device where you don't have have keyboard-type input."

Taking a veiled dig at Apple's iPad and similar devices like it, Gates said that "Students aren't there just to read things," but also to "write and communicate. And so it's going to be more in the PC realm -- it's going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive."

Microsoft's Surface tablet will attempt to popularize the idea of including a hardware keyboard with a tablet, and it would appear Gates is in favor with that strategy. At the same time, he believes the real limiting factor at this point isn't the hardware.

"If we ever get the curriculum to be super, super good, then the access piece, which is the most expensive part, will be challenging, requiring special policies to let people get access," Gates explained. "The device, you'll be able to check out of the library a portable PC, so I don't see that as the key thing right now."