From pushing and helping to develop DOS and the PC to defining the modern
operating system with Windows, Gates has left a perhaps unparalleled mark on the
face of technology in the world today. On Friday, after 33-years with
Microsoft -- the company he cofounded with Paul Allen, a friend from school, in
New Mexico in 1975 -- Gates will clock
in his last workday with the company.
The move has been a long time coming. In 2000, Gates stepped down as CEO
and allowed his trusted,
if a bit vociferous, friend Steve Ballmer assume the position. The
move was largely precipitated from the fallout of the major antitrust case in
which Microsoft had been charged by the FTC of violations and found
guilty. Afterwards, Gates assumed the role of "Chief Software Architect". In
time, he would abdicate this role to Ray Ozzie and go on to become
Now at last he is leaving the company. Gates, ever lampooned and
conversely idolized by pop culture, brought Microsoft into its period of
greatest success with the rise of Windows 95, 98 and 2000. During this
era, Internet Explorer became king of the browser arena and Microsoft Office
and its brethren became the undisputed leaders in productivity software.
Direct 3D and later
DirectX became the standards of the newly formed 3D gaming industry.
In short, Microsoft dominated virtually every arena of personal computing
As Gates began to abdicate his responsibilities, some of Microsoft's more rocky
times came into focus. IE lost some ground to its first real competitor
Foundation's Firefox browser. After a strong success with Windows XP,
Windows Vista received poor critical reception and struggled to be adopted in
the business community. Meanwhile Microsoft received massive fines from
the EU for its closed box software policies, which violated the EU's stricter
Perhaps the greatest struggle for Microsoft has been its attempt to gain a
controlling influence over the online world. Try as Microsoft may, it has
been unable to match first Yahoo, and now Google
in terms of online relevance. It tried to jump start its efforts with
merger, but the talks
However, for its struggles the company has also had its successes. The
Zune music players were relatively well received, and while they did not turn
out to be the iPod killer that Microsoft had hoped, they became a valuable new
business. Perhaps Microsoft's greatest new success was the creation of
the Xbox game console. From nowhere, the first Xbox surpassed long time
stalwart Nintendo's next gen Gamecube console and only took second place to the
wildly successful Playstation 2.
In this generation the roles have reversed -- after an early lead thanks to its
early release, Microsoft fell
to second place to a reinvigorated Nintendo's wildly successful Wii.
Yet again Microsoft maintained
a healthy margin over its third place competitor, in this case the PS3.
The mixed bag since cannot be pinned on any specific factor, but Bill Gates’
influence on the initial rampant success of Microsoft was undeniable. His
methods were a bit strange at times. He was ruthless and competitive, not
afraid to outmaneuver his competitors out of their livelihood, hiring the more
talented of them in the aftermath.
He was equal parts guru and corporate shark, for days relentlessly dictating
business policy, and then disappearing for months into his cabin retreat where
he read papers from his best researchers and pondered the changing face of
technology. He would always return with profound memos which changed the
course of the company; including his now famous 1995 "Internet Tidal
Some fear that a post-Gates Microsoft will struggle to think and react like
Gates. Worse yet, CEO Steve Ballmer, a major guiding force in the company,
will be departing in only 10 years. With Ray Ozzie a similar age to
Ballmer and Gates, the leadership line may fall into shambles. However,
Gates is going to do his part to keep the ship steady. He will
continue to chair board meetings and will continue to offer advice to Steve
Ballmer, until he retires.
In his free time, Bill will devote more time to his charity work and
family. Bill and his wife Melinda have created the Seattle-based Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest charity of its kind. Thanks to
large personal donations from Gates and donations from people worldwide, the
foundation has asset trust endowments of $37.3 billion and has committed to
grants of $16.5 billion during its 14 years. Gates and his wife plan to
of their money on charity within 50 years of their death. For his
efforts, he and his wife were TIME
magazine's people of the year in 2005.
Gates hopes to use the money to focus on eradicating AIDS and malaria. In
short, he hopes in his retirement to modestly help conquer the greatest
diseases afflicting mankind.
Bill Gates has given a couple farewell speeches in which he got a little teary
eyed. It’s understandable, though. Even to the most hard-line
critic of Microsoft, it’s hard to look at Gates and Microsoft's story and not
feel something, not to feel moved by the force that this man created.
Gates may still be a shadowed presence at Microsoft, but as he fades into the
twilight, the tech industry pauses to consider the departure of the man who
quote: you'd have to ascend above the intelligence of a cave man first.