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Gates on Microsoft's Launch Week: 'This Is the Big Time for Us'

Microsoft has no better technology evangelist than Bill Gates.

And with this being the start of a huge launch week for Microsoft -- Windows 8 and the Surface RT on Thursday and Windows Phone 8 the following Monday -- Microsoft posted a corporate Q&A video this morning featuring the chairman, who normally leaves most of the technology pitching work to CEO Steve Ballmer.

Gates started out with nods to both Ballmer's authority and to Microsoft's precarious position in the IT industry if its Windows 8 tablet-PC hybrid gamble doesn't work.

"As Steve Ballmer has said, this is an absolutely critical product. It takes Windows into the world of touch, low-power devices, really giving people the best of what you think of as a tablet-type experience and the PC experience," Gates told his Microsoft interviewer Steve Clayton in the five-minute video.

Gates starts off slowly with a few comments that seemed pulled from his keynotes in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he used to advocate for Microsoft's technology more regularly. "It's key to where personal computing is going, and you know we're going to get software developers behind this like we have with every big new version of Windows," Gates said.

But about two minutes in, Gates switches out of his logical, analytical delivery and seems to wake up as he's talking about the opportunities in the shared platform among Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the next version of Office and their connection to the cloud.

"They all go get their storage, go get your personalization, and so, that's a wonderful thing. And when it works, you just sit there going, 'Wow,'" Gates said with visible enthusiasm.

Referring to an app store with "tons and tons of applications," Gates sets a pretty high expectations bar for Microsoft to clear at the events over the coming week.

"People will be pretty amazed at the energy Microsoft is putting behind this new wave of products. We've really saved up in terms of knowing that this was such an important set of innovations that whether it's great new applications or ISV engagement or just plain marketing, this is the big time for us," he said.

One of the lessons of the new technology marketing reality that Gates does seem to have absorbed is that Microsoft can no longer win by selling its technology to the IT managers, who make the decisions and pass devices onto their users. Gates doesn't make any of Microsoft's frequent and awkward references to what "consumers" or third-person users will be able to do with Windows 8 or the Surface.

Instead he focuses on his own excitement about getting a Surface with a story about how he ended up with the magnetic keyboard in black.

"I've got the basic black. It was one of the first ones off the line and I was anxious to get one," Gates said. His own, obviously biased, opinion from using it day and night is that it's an "unbelievably great product. It's really amazing."

In a strong bring-your-own-device pitch, Gates urges people to go try one at a Microsoft Store, suggesting that features such as the kickstand and the keyboard have to be experienced to be appreciated. "Get to a store, play around with this thing -- the way you put that keyboard on and off, the richness of the swiping that takes the touch interface to a new level."

The chairman came out of retirement to give the launches a good setup. We'll see if Ballmer and his marketers can execute on the expectations.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 22, 2012