A chat with Richard Branson

[intro]I caught up with Britain's most famous ballooning entrepreneur to talk gadgets, space flights and his new-found love of four play.[/intro]

Stuff: Are you a fan of technology?

Branson: I love technology but it’s really difficult keeping up with all new innovations - it's a good thing my kids help out sometimes! Technology has become such an integral part of every day life that things which 20 years ago would have been the stuff of science fiction are now in every day usage. Virgin as a brand likes to innovate with technology and the launch of Virgin Media is helping consumers use new and futuristic technology with ease.

What gadgets can’t you live without?

My mobile phone and my Blackberry are essential – but to be honest, it’s great for reading emails but not so great for replying, the keys are just too small…

Technology has amazing potential for making life easier and yet so many people are scared of it and get confused by RAM and gigabytes. What Virgin does, and what Virgin does well, is make that technology accessible and easy to understand. What you get from Virgin is, on the surface, a simple solution to a seemingly difficult problem - for example, Virgin Media enables consumers to get all their home and communication entertainment needs through one provider - the first time this has happened and yet, it's so simple when you look at it.

Is there any gadget or technology service you wish Virgin had pioneered?

I think the iPod is fantastic and wish we’d been involved in that. But we’re pioneering the launch of the first commercially viable space tourism business so I think we’re doing lots of pioneering ourselves!

What do you think the future of communication and entertainment will be like?

Communication and entertainment will become much more streamlined and people will want to be able to access what they want when they want. Virgin Media and TV on demand enables all of this, now.

People want their news and entertainment in bite sized chunks so it can easily consumed – I think the advent of Web 2.0 and the success of user generated content, like YouTube and MySpace shows that people are much more able to define their favourite forms of entertainment and ways of accessing movies, music and so much more. You can get TV through your mobile phone now and view movies on your iPod - who knows what'll happen in the future? All I can say is that Virgin is already looking into new products and technologies that will take this interactivity to a whole new level.

Why exactly were you sitting in a box in covent garden for eight hours?

We couldn't think of a better way to launch Virgin Media than to move my living room to Covent Garden and showcase how these products could make even sitting in a glass walled room watched by hundreds of people entertaining and interactive.

Most launches I take part in seem to involve a lot of activity, jumping out of planes, punting down rivers, that sort of thing. It was weird to have so much time to myself, just lounging around, but I was kept entertained by a steady stream of friends popping by to visit…

Did living in a box teach you anything?

It wasn't really a box - it was just like being at home, with my son Sam popping in and out, people dropping by for a cup of tea or to listen to the latest band... Albeit, in a slightly surreal setting.

What it did make me realise is that, even on those days when all you want to do is stay at home, lounging, Virgin Media can make those hours fly by.