Bill Gates has cancelled two Melbourne appearances for later today after addressing the World Economic Forum this morning.
Gates was due to speak to IT professionals tonight at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, but under the instruction of local police authorities, the event was cancelled "due to security concerns". These concerns stem from the protests being staged against the World Economic Forum by a ten thousand strong group of protesters in close proximity to the Convention Centre.
Gates will also miss out on appearing in person at the Generation.NET 2000 education session this afternoon, opting to deliver his message to students via live video.
A statement by Victorian Premier Steve Bracks condemned the protestors for causing inconvenience to both organisers and the students involved in the session.
"It is disappointing that the actions of an extreme minority have inconvenienced so many sttudents," he said.
Meanwhile, talking in Sydney yesterday, Microsoft's founder and chief software architect gave some timely advice for keeping Australia tech-savvy: push broadband and IT education.
Discussing Microsoft's .Net strategy, Gates described his vision for a future where user data and applications will be free from devices and accessible anywhere at anytime on the Internet.
But in order to achieve this vision in Australia, users will have to be able to access better broadband services. Without pointing the figure at any telco in particular, Gates suggested that telecommunications is one area where Australia may be falling behind.
"There are certain applications that simply can't be done without a high speed connection," he said. "There are limits to how much you can do with a dial-up connection - the challenge is to get broadband out into people's homes."
"It's a little disappointing that broadband isn't as popular in consumers here as it is in the US," he said, "But a high percentage of the .net vision can be done without broadband."
Gates also targeted Government as an area that needs to lead the way for Australia to keep up with technological pace. He emphasised the importance of using and teaching students about Information Technology in schools and universities and that "the Government itself has to be a model user of IT."
According to Gates, the final realisation of Microsoft's .net strategy will be a breakthrough user interface, which Gates does not see in a Windows release for several years down the track.
In the meantime, he will continue to promote XML (extensible mark-up language) as a standard for web development to ensure the success of Microsoft's next platforms.
"In the next twenty-five years, the role of software is going to be even more critical," he said.