Gates; Ruthless, Dominance and Respect

Love him (stockholders) or hate him (most everyone else), the mere mention of Bill Gates evokes an emotional response from most anyone with a pulse. With Gates' impending retirement from Microsoft, many of us are looking back and looking ahead at the impact Bill Gates has had on our industry. No need to list his accomplishments, just look at Microsoft to see that. But as I look back on what Gates has accomplished, and how he shaped Microsoft and the industry itself, three themes stand out for me.

Ruthless

Whether it was hawking his BASIC language to Altair users at the Home Brew computer club, or sucking the market right from under a formerly dominant competitor, Gates has a penchant to win and win at almost all costs. Gates has always played to win. You see that in his genius in creating products and business deals, right from the start with licensing BASIC to Altair and DOS to IBM. I believe it's Gates' ruthlessness that has led to much of the angst towards him. Many companies and careers have been crushed under the Gates + Microsoft juggernaut. And many millions, even billions, have been made throughout the ecosystems created around Microsoft. Ruthless, it's a trait many titans of industry have had. How we chose to play the game, is a choice each of us makes, and says a lot about how we'll be remembered.

Dominance

Gates doesn't like a close race, he wants player #2 to be a very distant second. Very distant. Just enough to keep the EUC and DOJ off Microsoft's back and Gates off the witness stand. This quest for dominance goes back to the early days of Windows, when we saw through sheer persistence and will to win, Gates kept at it time after time to move DOS into the Windows era and squash any other windowing system off the PC for good. The same is true when Microsoft lost ground in age of the Internet but eventually successfully played catch up.

Respect

Not everyone may have liked how he did it, or that it was Gates who accomplished what he has through Microsoft, but you have to respect all that Bill Gates has accomplished. Gates didn't always define the personal computer industry, but he pretty much created it. Apple had a big hand in it in the beginning and along the way with the Macintosh, but Gates has always been able to take his and others' ideas and make them mainstream. And today, that includes much of the technology corporate IT uses in the data center as well as the desktop.

Ruthless, dominance and respect; that's how I'll remember Bill Gates. Now it's up to Ballmer, Ozzie and others to define and create the next era of what is and will be Microsoft.

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