The Futurist Technologist

Khushwant Singh

Gurdeep Singh Pall Corporate Vice President, Business AI, Microsoft Corp.

A journey into the unknown had just begun. A journey where he would be a part of some of the most significant leaps in technology that would change the world forever. Some of those events were driven by Bill Gates led Microsoft Corporation itself. The era could well be described as a Passage to Technology, some of its key hallmarks being the advent of the personal computer entering the mainstream; the unveiling of Windows 3.0, which made computers broadly usable, beyond the technophiles; the wide spread availability of the Internet, which otherwise was confined to universities; and when Microsoft crossed the one billion USD mark in revenue sometime in the year 1990. ‘To give you a sense, Microsoft hit that magic figure quite early in its inception. I was employee four thousand something and today Microsoft employs over hundred thousand people,’ claims Gurdeep. It’s really about timing feels Gurdeep, as he considers himself lucky to be part of the technology revolution.

Gurdeep’s early jobs were in distributed systems for program compilation, and Networking over phone lines. He got picked to implement parts of the TCP/IP “stack” for Microsoft Windows – which literally was the piece of software on which the Internet worked. TCP/IP had been specified over a period of years by Researchers and Academics, eventually becoming a standard behind which the industry rallied. A confluence of factors resulted in the Internet becoming a global phenomenon, a big one of which is a billion computers running Windows Operating System networking stack that Gurdeep worked on.

BIT Mesra, on their alumni website, while describing their eminent former student states the following: ‘Mr. Pall has worked on many breakthrough products … was part of the Windows NT development team, working on the first version of Windows NT 3.1 in 1993 as a software design engineer, all the way through Windows XP in 2001 as general manager of Windows Networking. … he led design and implementation of core networking technologies such as PPP, TCP/IP, UPnP, VPNs, routing, and Wi-Fi … (also) co-authored the first VPN protocol in the industry … which received the prestigious Innovation of the Year award from PC Magazine in 1996.”

The description sums up his early career achievements but the icing on the cake is in the detail, as according to Gurdeep those were days of unbridled innovation opportunity. Also, the website is somewhat dated and it is the years beyond 2001 that Gurdeep’s career gained gravitas and international acclaim.

In 2001, Gurdeep was elevated to the position of general manager, Windows XP. This was indeed a momentous step in his career because it was through Windows XP that Microsoft was making that very crucial shift to Windows NT codebase for mainstream users. Microsoft termed it as the most important release after Windows 95 and Gurdeep was responsible for all the networking code. This code was responsible for web surfing, streaming, file sharing, and so on – which by then was the most important use for computers. The first time that Wi-Fi was enabled in a general-purpose computer was on Windows XP. It was a very challenging assignment given that Wi-Fi technology had not yet been fully developed. ‘Definitely a very painful but rewarding experience – given that a billion users around the world would count on that capability in their work and life,’ states Gurdeep.

The Twenty-First Century

‘Though it’s mostly about timing or fate, both things out of one’s control, what one does with the opportunity is really up to the individual,’ Gurdeep tries to explain that even though one cannot control time or fate, rising up to one’s responsibility when one is tasked with something, is clearly dependent on each individual.

Khushwant Singh
  • Manpreet Singh