Bill Gates' philanthropy has no bounds
by Sylvano - 2008-07-02 11:52:42
Bill Gates is not retiring from Microsoft. He is resigning... discreetly.
Almost everything you read is along the lines of how Bill's leaving software and devoting his life to philanthropy. Josh Quittner's article, Bill Gates: PC Genius, Internet Fool, at Time Online is a typical example. And they are all off mark. While Mr. Quittner does conclude his article with the quip: "Maybe we'll see Gates return, a Nobel in his pocket, ready to wrestle with the Web once again," it is only a quip and it still misses the point.
Bill is certainly going to devote his efforts to philanthropic work, but it is only now that he will also be able to turn his attention fully to the web, the internet and everything software. And he has a vision.
Gates became a victim of Microsoft as much as the rest of us think we have and the only way he can realise his vision is to leave the 'team' and to create a new, unencumbered enterprise. That vision can only be achieved if he becomes an entrepreneur again. Where Mr. Quittner reckons that the smartest move for Bill Gates is to get out of the way of Microsoft, my thinking is that Bill Gates reckons his smartest move is to get Microsoft out of his way.
And to imagine what Gates has in mind for software development, we need to get some things out of our way. Consider just a few of the tangled threads of popular narrative around Microsoft and Bill Gates. The most obvious one is the growth of Google and its dominance of web search.
Now while it may be argued that Google is a competitive threat to Microsoft, it is no such thing for Gates. In fact, I believe Google has proven to him that the massive opportunity to conquer online still exists untapped and that Google is not geared to do it; not now, not ever. Google does a couple of things very well, no doubt about that, but the number one spot is not guaranteed and Google does not share Bill's vision.
Another popular narrative is how crappy Windows is, how evil Microsoft is, etc. Now the validity of these claims has no bearing on the fact that - as much as we may hate to admit it - Bill Gates is a software guy and he actually understands something about the software industry. In fact, he also has some understanding of the operating system business, how to do business with hardware vendors and how to make a profit.
The way various commentators go on, you would think Microsoft has yet to leverage the internet. Which is odd, because the last time I looked, Microsoft does do the internet: Internet Explorer is the dominant browser online and Outlook is used across most businesses and homes. And of course, all the Microsoft Office products incorporate internet connectivity features.
Finally, and importantly, really contemplate what he said all those years ago about having a vision of a PC on every desk, in every home. Particularly since he is a software developer, not a hardware manufacturer...
So what do we expect from a guy with billions of dollars in his pocket, connections across industry and government, and a definite vision about software development over the next couple of decades?
If my sense is right, then Bill's vision means we all need to keep an eye on the transition to IPv6, developments in consumer robotics (remember hardware?), embedded systems generally and the next generations of user interfaces (did I mention hardware?). Oh and keep your other eye on Microsoft, of course...
I suspect that conquering the internet will prove to be only one byproduct of Bill Gates fulfilling his vision, and I reckon he'll do that well within three years.