Menu
Bill Gates down to his last month at Microsoft

Bill Gates down to his last month at Microsoft

The only certainties in life, the saying goes, are death and taxes. But for IT pros and home users alike, there has been a third one for the past three decades: Bill Gates as the leader and public face of Microsoft , the software vendor he co-founded 33 years ago.

Along with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Gates is one of the two most seminal figures — or at least widely recognised personalities — from the PC revolution that eventually begat both the dot-com era and today's Web 2.0 movement. And because of his fabulous wealth, and all of the controversy that Microsoft has generated because of its market dominance, Gates may be the only IT industry executive familiar even to members of the general public who aren't at all tech-savvy.

But the certainty of Gates being at Microsoft is about to come to an end. The 52-year-old will officially step away from his day-to-day role at Microsoft at the end of this month in order to devote more time — along with his wife, Melinda — to the charitable foundation that bears their names.

William H. Gates III's legacy within the IT industry no doubt will be coloured by people's views of the company he has built. Obviously, there have been a lot of pluses: directly or indirectly, Gates has helped to bring computing to the masses and to enrich hundreds of thousands of Microsoft employees and business partners, plus many more shareholders. In addition, he has played a large role in helping the U.S. maintain its position as the global leader in technology.

But his detractors -- and there are many -- say that under Gates, Microsoft has overcharged tens if not hundreds of millions of customers while afflicting them with, umm, less-than-stellar software (see David Letterman's backhanded tribute video here ). Critics also contend that Gates engaged in monopolistic business tactics both in the U.S. and overseas in order to crush challengers and amass one of the largest fortunes in the world, worth an estimated $58 billion.

It also seems like Gates has been retiring for a long time now. Microsoft announced on June 15, 2006, that he would immediately give up his chief software architect role and then stop working full-time at the company following a two-year transition period. Since then, Gates, intentionally or not, has taken more victory laps than Formula One driver Michael Schumacher did in his racing days.

In particular, every public appearance by Gates over the past 12 months has been touted as his "final (fill in the blank) ever" — until, inevitably, he shows up again somewhere else.

What has helped make it tolerable is Gates' willingness to poke fun at himself. For example, he was self-deprecating enough to star in a celebrity-filled video spoofing his retirement plans -- and as corporate videos go, it actually was funny.

Despite all the talk of retirement, Gates won't truly be gone from Redmond. He plans to continue as Microsoft's chairman, and he said last week that he still plans to spend 20 percent of his time working at the company on projects involving technologies such as Office and search tools.

So he won't be history, really. But it is a good time to start thinking about how to judge Gates and his impact on the IT industry from a historical perspective.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftApplesteve jobsbill gates

Featured

Slideshows

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session

New Zealanders kick-started EDGE 2018 with a bout of Super Rugby before a dedicated New Zealand session, in front of more than 50 partners, vendors and distributors on Hamilton Island.​

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session
EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research

EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research

EDGE 2018 kicked off with a dedicated New Zealand track, highlighting the key customer priorities across the local market, in association with Dell EMC. Delivered through EDGE Research - leveraging Kiwi data through Tech Research Asia - more than 50 partners, vendors and distributors combined during an interactive session to assess the changing spending patterns of the end-user and the subsequent impact to the channel.

EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research
Show Comments