A spectacular innings beginning 1975! And not yet over for Bill Gates, not really!
Microsoft co-founder and chief architect, Harvard drop-out turned geek god, world's wealthiest man (for many years), founder of the richest charitable trust... Bill Gates is a phenomenon that defies definition. As he hung up his boots on Friday last week, the world (mostly) applauded.
A spectacular innings beginning 1975! And not over yet, not really! Gates continues to be Microsoft's non-executive chairman and largest shareholder. He continues to devote the equivalent of one day per week to the business of the company. He continues to spend roughly 20 percent of his time working on issues such as Gen-Next Office, natural interfaces, and search. Yes, he continues (we presume) to obsess about how to banish Google!
The difference being: he will now spend quality time guiding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable trust worth more than the annual budget of the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations (UN), which is dedicated to global causes such as health and education. He will bring his fierce intellect and energies to bear upon tackling pressing problems that face our planet, including poverty and starvation, AIDS, Malaria, global warming, and so on and so forth.
Paradigm shift -- not for someone the stature of Gates who has pumped nearly half his fortune (in 1999, his fortune was worth more than $100 billion) into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Something our very own home-grown billionaires can possibly borrow a leaf from
If at all, Gates is looking forward to the road ahead. He is reported to have said in an interview to Newsweek, "This whole thing about which operating system somebody uses is a pretty silly thing versus issues involving starvation or death. In no sense would I say, 'I'm making a sacrifice because it's something my mother told me I ought to do'. I am doing something my mother told me I ought to do, but it's going to be a lot of fun. And I feel good about the impact. The chances are many others will soon be feeling good about it too.
Gates leaves behind an admirable legacy; he was the driving force behind the whole personal computer (PC) revolution not to mention blockbuster products such as Windows and Office (how can we forget Vista?) that run on nearly 90 percent of the world's PCs. It is now up to his successors: CEO Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie, Craig Mundie, and team -- how they take it forward from here.
Yes, the focus of tech seems to have shifted from PCs to the Internet, and with that, from Microsoft to the likes of Google. Does that bother Gates? Is that the real reason he's quitting Microsoft -- while things are still under control - somewhat. Gates (because he is Gates) would counter that. When asked by Steven Levy of Newsweek whether Microsoft's offering of almost $50 billion for Yahoo! showed that the company hasn't made the most of the Internet opportunity Gates had identified in 1995, the year Yahoo! was founded, Gates replied, "So we've done great things since 1995. Did we do everything? Do we wish that we'd also done everything that say, Google has done? Sure. But I'll take our track record since 1995 versus anyone."
In a separate interview with NBC this very week, when asked if he had an iPod, Gates responded in characteristic fashion, "No, the Zune is a better way to carry your music around."