Saturday, July 05, 2008

Gates leaves, Microsoft searches for future ....

Here’s a landmark occasion, the retirement of William Gates III, known to the world as Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world and the face of the PC revolution.

But, in the Internet, his brilliance has been superceeded by several companies, who understood the new realities better than Microsoft. Therein, lies all the talk in the media this week about Bill Gates leaving as Microsoft needs to chart a new course.

Time magazine may have been a bit harsh, with a headline: PC Genius, Internet Fool!

So, everyone thinks Bill couldn't figure out how to beat the Internet — how to manage the transition of his grand old monopoly software company, Microsoft, into a business that thrives on the Net.

He begins his retirement from Microsoft as the PC era's biggest winner, and the Web era's most spectacular casualty. The Internet has turned business upside down, look at the music, television, newspapers and retailing industries for evidence of destruction of decades of sound business models. To think the Internet could also brutalize a cutting-edge technology firm like Microsoft just shows that even Google will take a hit one day!

On the topic of Google- a company that Microsoft probably looked at with disdain when it first launched as a free service, then tried to buy it’s way into the same business with little success- you have to wonder if the tidal wave of free online software applications will hammer Microsoft’s revenues. After all, Microsoft is still a multi-billion dollar, highly profitable and somewhat monopolistic company.

Apparantly, Microsoft still has $26 billion in cash reserves. But, surely, not even Gates thinks that will last forever!
Pulling off stunts like killing Netscape, the first-to-market browser, by including Internet Explorer as standard in Windows, seems such a distant memory now as Microsoft seems incapable of killing anything, let alone breathing life into Windows Vista!

Suddenly, big and complicated operating systems such as Vista, aren't necessary in the Web Age; and Gates’ biggest regret is that he leaves without putting his mark on this Web Age. It’s true Microsoft own Hotmail, MSN and other online properties and services, but they are not the ‘big boys’ of the Internet economy.

For me, as a technology magazine readers since the eighties, the a journalist since the nineties, Gates has been part of my world. His business and personal evolution has been watched by millions, including me. His persona and legendary status are part of popular culture, even here in Jordan! How many times have you heard derogatory remarks like, “You think you’re as smart as Bill Gates”, or “I can’t buy this, I’m not Bill Gates”.

I want to tip my hat, as should every computer owner over the course of the past 25 years, to a visionary who facilitated every revolution we’ve witnessed since PC-DOS launched. We’ve seen many ‘angles’ to his character, but surely the philanthropic efforts he’s about to build on deserve our utmost respect.

The billions he and his wife Melinda will be spending from their own fortune to help those in need, across the world, will be Gates’ biggest legacy; not forgetting of course that operating system we all used one day: Windows!


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