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Bill Gates talks Microsoft Surface tabs, charitable work & Steve Jobs

Bill Gates thinks tablets will eventually replace traditional PCs and in the meantime, there is plenty of room in the market for both Microsoft's own Windows 8-based Surface and devices built by the company's OEM partners.

Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, appeared on American TV interview show Charlie Rose earlier this week. He spent the bulk of his hour-long interview with its eponymous host discussing the work of the charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in impoverished countries like India.

But the former Microsoft CEO did weigh in on some tech-related matters, Business Insider noted on Tuesday. For example, Gates touched on the decision by his company to produce its own tablet, the Surface, to help kick start the company's next generation Windows 8 operating system when it's released later this year.

Rumour has it that at least one Microsoft partner, Hewlett-Packard, may have been miffed enough at the software giant's decision to produce the Surface in-house that HP scrapped its plans for a Windows RT-based consumer tablet that already had Qualcomm chips lined up to power it.

Gates told Rose there was room for both a Microsoft-built tablet and a host of Windows 8 slates built by third-party manufacturers.

"I actually believe you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a rich ecosystem of manufacturers and you can have a few signature devices that show off, wow, what's the difference between a tablet and a PC?" he said.

Gates pitched Rose on Microsoft's next-gen OS, which has a tablet-friendly interface and works with both the x86 processors used in PCs and the ARM-based chips used in mobile devices, as the best of both worlds.

"You can get everything you like about a tablet, everything you like about a PC, all in one device. That should change the way people look at things," he said.

Gates stepped down as chief executive of Microsoft in 2000 and in 2006 began transitioning from full-time duties at the company to spending the bulk of his time with the charitable organisation he founded with his wife six years earlier. Initiatives the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have overseen include vaccination programmes and the distribution of mosquito nets in malaria-stricken regions.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed more than $1 billion (£638 million) to combat disease and poverty in India. Gates, who recently visited the country, told Rose that "health is improving in India as fast as any place in the world." Asked by Rose to compare China and India in terms of a culture of innovation, Gates said India's leadership in producing software engineers was unparalleled but overall, China's engineering and manufacturing sectors were "much further ahead of India."

Gates also described the reasoning behind his transition from cutthroat businessman to philanthropist—a career arc that the author Malcolm Gladwell recently opined would result in history remembering the Microsoft founder much more fondly than the late Apple leader Steve Jobs, with whom Gates has often been compared.

"I think the world's best companies are built by fanatics, and when you're in your 20s and 30s, being fanatical comes easy, at least it came pretty naturally to me. .. I didn't feel that bad that that's what I was doing," he told Rose.

"I think now in my 50s, this way of operating, where I'm backing a lot of these great scientists [developing health care programmes and technologies] is what is the most natural for me."

Rose brought up Gladwell's comments, but Gates refused to bite on the idea that Jobs would be forgotten in 50 years while he himself would be lionised for his charitable work.

"I don't think anybody does the work they do based on how they think they'll be remembered. Steve Jobs did phenomenal work, both when I partnered with him and when Microsoft competed with him and that deserves to be remembered," he said.

Gates also said he and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen had no notion that their software venture would become one of the largest, most profitable companies in the world.

"We didn't think we'd be worth that much money ... because we had this sort of high-volume, low-price approach. But eventually the volumes got big enough, that the numbers got very significant," he said.