Ask my computer to shut up.

Bill Gates is, yet again, claiming that speech-driven user interfaces are about to become the Next Big Thing in computing.

Sure, he’s been saying that for a long time now. Ten years at least. I think Bill is taking the broken clock approach on this: say something often enough, long enough, and the laws of probability declare that you will eventually be right. You may laugh at me for predicting snow tomorrow … but give it six months. Then who’s the wise guy, huh?

Enough already. The gulf between Gates’ financial/business success and the acuity of his technological vision is stunning; there is probably no comparable figure in any industry who has been so wrong in the field of his supposed expertise. His obsession with voice-driven UIs – which probably stems from nothing more than too many Star Trek reruns back in the dorm at Harvard — is just one example of his propensity for mistaking his own geeky fetishes for technological inevitabilities.

No one wants voice computing, except for David Pogue, and he’s a Mac user. The din of an entire office running speech-driven computers boggles the mind. Not to mention that voice interaction is much slower than customary manual interaction. This technology has been around for years now, and if people wanted it, it would have taken off already. You know two-way video phones have existed since the early eighties? Probably you did. No one wants those either.

At this point I am tempted to draw a parallel between Gates’ obsession with vocal interfaces and the unhinged swearing that many a Windows user has directed against his or her recalcitrant machine. But I’m taking the high road.

In the meantime, will some tech journalist kindly grow a pair (pardon the metaphor, female readers) and ask Gates to either let the subject die or offer a plainspoken explanation as to why this decade-old prediction stubbornly refuses to come true?