Consumers have better access to technology and communication breakthroughs than businesses; according to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

Innovation is faster in the consumer sphere because competition causes products to be updated more often, normally every six months.

Speaking at the Convergence 2005 show for Microsoft's business applications unit, Gates said: "In the business space, it's more stair step." He noted that business programs tend to get larger updates, but only every two to three years.

"The result is that many of the communication breakthroughs have come through consumer technologies such as instant messaging," he said.

Gates also noted the need to move information between two different realms – the unstructured world of e-mail and Office documents, and the highly structured world of business applications. He said: "We need to take Excel and make sure it understands rich, structured data much more than it does today," reports ZDnet.