Bill Gates has been an incredibly successful businessman, but that doesn't mean he's particularly good at predicting the future of technology. Remember his claim that spam would be gone
within 2 years... which he made in 2004? However, if there's one prognostication that Gates just can't let go of, it's his belief that speech recognition will replace keyboards as the preferred input device for computers. He's been saying it for years and years and years, without much to show for it. I had thought (hoped?) that he'd realized maybe he was wrong on this one, but apparently not. In a recent speech, he's insisting that speech recognition (and touch screens) will start to surpass keyboards
as the input method of choice for many people. I was going to go back and put together a list of the times he had predicted that in the past, but it appears that Matthew Paul Thomas already did that
a few years ago. Note that his earliest predictions
(starting in 1997) were that speech would surpass keyboards within a decade. This quote is from October 1997:
"In this 10-year time frame, I believe that we'll not only be using the keyboard and the mouse to interact, but during that time we will have perfected speech recognition and speech output well enough that those will become a standard part of the interface."
If you go to Matthew's site, you'll find a lot
more like that, continuing on through the years, with some different prediction time frames. This isn't to say that speech recognition hasn't gotten a lot better, and isn't used in many more ways today than it was in the past -- but it's not come anywhere close to replacing a keyboard for a variety of good reasons that have much less to do with technology than with how people work. Imagine just how noisy your typical office would be if you had to speak to your computer rather than type? Typing isn't used just because it's efficient, but because it lets people work without disturbing others, and without letting everyone else know every little thing that you're doing. Yes, speech recognition technology is getting much better and it's useful in some situations, but it's certainly not the perfect interface for an awful lot of what people do on a computer.