"Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to measure." -- Lewis L. Strauss, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1954
As long-term investors, we are concerned with long-term trends. And as much as one may question why a software guru should have any credibility when predicting hardware prices, let's consider Gates' vision.
Almost-free hardware would mean that all homes would have a hardware resource -- the turn-of-the-century equivalent to every home having electricity. And with every home wired to receive data, computers would replace the stacks of audio and video components typical of today's home. After all, it is just digital bits.
That should be good news for Dell
Network landlords like Comcast
Of course, Mr. Gates' vision may never materialize. Some very connected people thought that by now electricity would be virtually free thanks to nuclear power. Intel
Maybe we should withhold any conclusions until Microsoft starts "giving" away its own hardware, the Xbox game console. After all, Microsoft doesn't even own the games (the razor blades) that benefit again and again from a free hardware (razor) platform. Gates' vision may or may not come to pass, but come to think of it, he may be right: For defensive long-term investors, content may be king -- and the safer bet.
As an IT consultant, Fool contributor W.D. Crotty would relish a world of cheap hardware -- if it were "free" of spam and technical problems. We're dreaming, right? W.D. Crotty does not own any of the stocks mentioned.