Five things we have learned from Bill Gates

December 10, 2008, 2:22 AM PST | Length: 327


Whether or not you're a fan of Bill Gates, it's impossible to deny the role he has played in spreading computer technology across the planet during the past three decades. His retirement as a full-time Microsoft employee in June 2008 marked the end of an era -- and it's one worth looking back on. This Sanity Savers for I-T executives discusses the five of the most important lessons we've learned from the meteoric and often turbulent career of the world's most famous IT professional.

21 comments
dougbrong
dougbrong

The guy has a virtual monopoly on the market. The O/S is so complicated only MS can write decent code (like MS office) and puts the competition out of business. Many of the ideas and products were stolen from other companies / competiors. If he can't beat you, then they'll give the application away and drive you out of business (ala Netscape). The O/S has bloated to the point were you need 2 gig to run the latest versionS. Oh don't forget MS's push for the H1-B people, he'll also steal your job, or threaten it with people working for $20/hr. Lastly, you can live out your career under the whip of continual change - that is until you realize the change is no change at all, and you burn out.

hotandholy
hotandholy

bill gate is my mentor i say a big thank you to him kudos to him in the microsoft company and i hope to be lke him one day

rcrumb
rcrumb

This would have been way more helpful to just list them off rather than making you go thru a painstakingly long video.

avidtrober
avidtrober

I just read the transcript, after starting the video and realizing I'd have 7-8 mins of fluff.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I haven't heard any mention of Microsoft's monopoly on the IBM OS. CPM was always better than DOS but Microsoft had the monopoly on the desktop OS, so DOS is what you got - and Microsoft got the money. It is easy to be successful if you have a molopoly. Microsoft has never been number one where it did not have a monopoly. If Microsoft did not have a monopoly we would be buying our software from many companies, all competing to deliver the best quality that current technology can bring. Instead...

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

"If Microsoft did not have a monopoly we would be buying our software from many companies, all competing to deliver the best quality that current technology can bring." If Microsoft did not have a monopoly we would be buying our software from Apple or IBM at 10 times the cost. Les.

avidtrober
avidtrober

True, if the previous monopoly was providing the OS. I took the author's post to mean (a) multiple choices in the market (b) fair competition options for them all. In that case, Windows would not have nearly the install base it does today.

avidtrober
avidtrober

Per your point: "it's impossible to deny the role he has played in spreading computer technology across the planet " You are absolutely correct. Gates doesn't get credit for what's he done, but he sure gets a lot of credit for what he's not done. Basically, "the most money wins" mentality is why Gates is given kudos he's not earned. Your points: 5. Lame. Gates was smart, well-financed, well-connected. 4. Gates didn't show us this. Rewind to the mini and micro days. Rewind to the myriad of companies now long-gone (some starved by the anti-trust tactics of Microsoft). Microsoft roared from behind (a) subsidizing poor programs from OS/office revenues, (b) to starve competition, (c) while using contractual tactics mentioned earlier in the comments to this article. 3. Computing was going to spread everywhere, anyway. Computing was targeted as high-growth before Gates ever set foot in Harvard. This was by no means his vision. Volumes of sales contributed to it. But SOMEONE was going to sale, it just happened to be Gates. 2. Inevitable business maturity cycles. 1. Really? what are we going to do, stand around and listen to the hardware hum? Gates spent so much time in OTHERS' applications to strategize what Microsoft should build, and the software shops popping up all over the place, make this a most ridiculous credit. More realistic points: 1. Fraud works - from lying to IBM, to plagerizing IBM, Apple, and others, to contractual practices mentioned in previous comments, it all works. And, it very much was how Microsoft got started in a lot of their channels. 2. The OS - Gates had a good strategy, always have control of the OS. You can't be undermined with OS control, and you can undermine competition (ask Borland about dev APIs, and a long, long line of others about this). Owning the OS has been THE top reason Microsoft survived and thrived. And, using #1 above, is how they got it everywhere, even where you don't want it, or need it (per previous comments). 3. Ignorance works - COM didn't solve anything that wasn't ALREADY solved, and with much less complexity. (Oddly, we find .Net 3.5 "innovating" what was around at the time, messaging-based peer-to-peer comms protocol-independent abstractions). This goes hand-in-hand with #2, because COM-dependent apps were Microsoft-dependent. 4. Sales and marketing, sales and marketing, sales and marketing. This is THE thing Microsoft is about. This is why they have the volumes they do, and, no, it doesn't prove they have quality or innovative products. But, space here doesn't permit proving that point. and, the top point: 5. You're King with the Most Money - you get the credit of others' work AND their money AND crowned the king by the masses IF you have the most money. Fact. Gates didn't design the myriad of products, he wasn't sweating it out in the design shops, managing the programs, coding, testing (what's that?), support or all the myriads of sales deals other than the ones he did make. Fact: it's not Gates money the Gates Foundation is giving away, its TENS OF THOUSANDS of workers who EARNED that money, yet our wonderful American Executive model let's someone at the top keep. Microsoft is the Wal-Mart of computing. "Build it, cheap and crappy, and they will come, in droves, to buy it."

avidtrober
avidtrober

Five (Good) Things I've Learned from Gates Per earlier post, I wouldn't want to sound all negative on Gates nor Microsoft. There's good in both... Here's what I learned from Gates... 1. Passion - Gates lives with passion about what he does. I never saw this guy into it for the money. The dominance and victory, yes, but not the money. Gates came fromm a well-off family, and a position in life many would play it safe, "have it made" just following along thru school, then business. Sure, Gates had money/family to fall back on, but it still is worth noting this guy walked off the beaten path for a passion. Too many lock themselves into jobs they hate thinking they have to, or to play it safe, too. Gates should be noted for his passion and the willingness to walk out the door of a place many won't. 2. Family - to me, Gates' family speaks volumes more than his success or money. Now, I don't know his family, but Gates does appear to make family a priority. The early years show him tight with his dad in business, and that's a good thing. Gates did focus on the family while realizing enormous success. Per the geek stuff about Gates, with his money, and with being successful, I'd bet Gates has had more than a few propositions, and many worthy options. You don't have to be Shwarzenegger per many a worthy, desirable woman. So far, this guy hasn't had mistresses pop-up or gone through several wives, and though kids are their own free-will agents, I say the odds are his will turn out far more grounded than many with the same entitlements. We'll see. With all the entitlements, it doesn't mean his kids "have it made"; their character will determine that, not daddy's money. What Gates family life appears to be far more inspires me than his business success, especially with the fact he has a family seemingly intact yet with all the entitlement. 3. Tenacity - Gates has no problem facing a Goliath. Sure, he was a kid of advantage, but still, this guy should be noted for taking on mammoth challenges, he's not afraid to face the toughest adversity (IMHO). 4. Corporate Culture - my experience with Microsoft, independent consulting 20+ years, they have far less dead weight and waste than any U.S. corporation of its size and complexity that I've been exposed to. Microsoft has some dead weight, and waste. But, it still has more demanding performance requirements than what I've seen in other corporations. There are plenty of complaints about its performance ratings, etc. but, it still has one of the best, if not the best, I've seen, at least corporate-wide. (Some segments of other corps, at times, have very good programs, at least for a while). Gates has been known to be demanding, even tyrannical rants at times. But, this as well as the more even keel side of Gates, from what I've seen, has a lot to do with a performance-oriented culture that requires more performance than most corps I've seen. (It doesn't fit in with them subsidizing PMs and mediocre program performance, though. That's one reason they can't shake bad mgmnt and performance where they least need it IMHO). 5. Giving - at least Gates has turned to benefactor work, rather than solely self-centered fulfillment pursuits like many retired execs. I don't know the level of effort he's in to right now, but I'd be surprised if he's not working fairly diligently at his foundation. At least this guy turns around to his family, the same one he started with, and to benefactory work rather than living it up like so many of the deviant, self-centered execs are. Sure, they deserve some celebration, but many are over the top in self-lavished living. Gates appears to be more modest, which brings up a last point... 6. Humility - a number of commentaries from the early years state Gates certainly had his moments of demanding, even tyrannical rants. But, in the latter years, this guy has shown humility a lot of successful execs lack very much. Gates has admitted to being in the right place at the right time, to being wrong about things, his own social ineptness (at the time), and recognition of those who are doing worthy things within the corporation. I'm sure he's quite human, and fallible, but, Gates has shown a different turn than many "celebrity execs" who are so ego-centric and basking in self-glory. Now, the above are technical in nature. But, it takes a human being to make a business. And, character is always going to dictate what that business turns out to be. Gates isn't perfect, but celebrity-execs have their warts magnified, too. Gates has note-worthy character traits that do show he's cut from another fabric than many celeb-execs America could simply do without.

moni142001
moni142001

I don't think any other acheivement of Gates could be worth comparing to these few simple lines which scrutinizes his character and certifies it to be a noteworthy one. I thank the author of this thread (Five (Good) Things I've Learned from Gates) for compiling these lines after a good observation. Could serve as a good reading for aspiring "celeb-execs". As the old quote says "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost." "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

snideley59
snideley59

At least Bill Gates will not go down with the likes of Ken Lay (Enron), Bernard Ebbers (Worldcom) or Bernard Madoff (our latest CEO scumbag) and a host of others yet to be named. Kudos to his character for that. Two thumbs up for Bill, although I am somewhat ambivalent about Microsoft products. As a Unix/Linux sys admin, I find that most (if not all) really computational intensive products run far better under the Unix/Linux platform (memory utilization, hyperthreading, etc). But these applications require me (or someone like me) to configure, manage and tune OS parameters to maximize performance. The average small to medium sized business can't afford to keep me employed full time on overhead to ensure that they're getting the most out of what they've got, even though I would deliver better results. Windows Server 2003 seems to have closed this gap somewhat in that you can stand it up "out of the box" and it's reasonably secure, reasonably configured and your partner (who's a whiz at desktop OS' such as XP and Vista) stands a chance at keeping you out of trouble if he/she does the Windows updates blindly. I've not played with Server 2008, but I would assume it's a little better at memory management, distributed I/O and maybe clustering technology. These are the things that Unix/Linux were built for. Desktop stuff was an afterthought. Windows was initially built as as a desktop environment. Server stuff was an afterthought. MAC OS, the same.

ihulland
ihulland

What an awful video, not only is the quality questionable ( was it produced in a vacant elevator, or in the bottom of an empty ceramic toilet bowl?) but the content is about as relevant to anything as Japanese see-through truss linings. -10 out of 10 for this one.

schiky28
schiky28

Think of this another way. Where else can you make a mistake in programing and make the public pay to correct it. Microsoft was a master of this.

jonbabin
jonbabin

You also forgot to comment that Gates is not capable of an original idea! ALL Microsoft produces are copies of the creations from others and "Updates" or "New Products" fixing problems written into their own software.

richard.beebe
richard.beebe

Actually the point "you don't have to be first to win" pretty much covers that. Plus the vast majority of software from ALL companies are variations on a theme. How many truly original software ideas have come around (and stuck around) in the past 30 years?

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

UNIX...Which I might add still works quite well today. Distributed Computing Shared Computing resources VisiCalc (exel).. Oh yes something else MS stole Most database designs come from GE 30+ years. Need we go on. What MS could not develop in house they bought and put the original company out of business. We all know that Gates got his start from IBM's vision of a management system running a standard DOS version. IBM during this time also envisioned that this system could not stay in the glass office but needed to be put on an employees desk. Most everyone needs a hammer at some time in their life and having a PC with an OS that works..er well most of the time is no better than having a hammer in your tool box. The only trouble is that the MS hammer has become far too bloated to be effective. The public needs to securely browse the net and to create things (docs, pics, etc). We do not need the floating windows and the glitzy images cascading around the screen. Gates has shown much more what not to do in business.

cummingsc
cummingsc

I would like to commend Mr. Gates, everyone is being slightly jaded and caustic about Mcrosoft and Bill Gates. However, it is the strength of Microsoft that has opened up computing to everyone and has made software so standard. Imagine as in the old days when you had to buy everything from one vendor because all products were not communicating with each other.

lmenningen
lmenningen

Very good run down, and it clearly demonstrates that many people, especially those who can only criticize him do so because they heard it from someone else. Actually there are other positive things Bill could be credited with. Bill Gates is morally no worse (and perhaps no better either) than the average guy working in IT or who got fired from Microsoft.

jeffsmall
jeffsmall

Your kudos to Microsoft for spreading their technologies seems to forget one thing; they did it with illegal contracts and were found guilty on 5 counts of federal anti-competitive practices. Sure Windows is everywhere. When I worked at a major computer manufacturer, our contract with MS required that we sell a Windows license with every processor that went out the door, even for Unix servers! Easy to spread your product if you break the laws to do it.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

Bill Gates quotes: If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1000 MPG. Microsoft is not about greed. It's about innovation and fairness. The U.S. couldn't even get rid of Saddam Hussein. And we all know that the EU is just a passing fad. They'll be killing each other again in less than a year. I'm sick to death of all these fascist lawsuits. You see, antiquated ideas of kindness and generosity are simply bugs that must be programmed out of our world. And these cold, unfeeling machines will show us the way. 640K ought to be enough for anybody. Les.

Spacecase
Spacecase

"Microsoft is not about greed. It's about innovation and fairness." If this is what MS is about, why haven't they ever acted on it? No, MS is about buying or bullying the competition. MS is about Lawyers plundering innovative software companies then buying them and screwing up the codebase. Windows would be a good product, if it were flushed down the toilet. MS was never innovative or fair. Probably never will be. Now that Bill G. is gone, maybe the computer/software industry can get out of the dark ages and into a digital renaissance. That would be nice, digital that works...