Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why has Bill Gates stepped off now?

Watched a programme last night about Bill Gates and his decision to concentrate on philanthropy in future. I didn't quite buy his body language when he was talking to Fiona Bruce, especially on the topic of the business strategies employed by Microsoft against Netscape, which triggered-off a massively expensive court case brought by the US Government.

What I've read about business moghuls suggests that, however rich, they never want to give up. They can always try to get bigger and outdo, or do in, a business rival. Robert Maxwell's downfall was his obsessive competition with Rupert Murdoch, which got down to the personal. For example, learning that Murdoch had flown to New York for a business dinner at a swanky restaurant, Maxwell immediately got on Concorde and shot across the Atlantic, so he could be at a neighbouring table.

And these people will compete in the smallest way. I read an article which said in passing that while his chauffeur-driven car was waiting at a red light, Maxwell saw next to him a very nice sports car (possibly a Ferrari). He leaned out of his window and helpfully informed the neighbouring driver that his rear tyre was flat, so that as the man glanced back, Maxwell's car could be first through the intersection when the lights changed.

So why is Gates, such a fierce competitor that his employees refer to themselves as "Microserfs", "retiring" at 52? Is it because he is smart enough to know when his business has peaked, and seeing a rival in Google (and a challenge from freeware) that he can't beat (despite his firm's attempt to purchase Yahoo!), he's withdrawn before defeat is clear? In which case, what are the implications for investors in Microsoft?


Wolfie said...

I believe you're absolutely right. In investment banking one is surrounded by software every minute but over the last few years I've notice MS products dwindling on my desktop. Support tell me there is no plan to migrate to Vista. They are on the slide for the simple reason that the company has become too large to manoeuvre in a dynamic marketplace.

Ironically the Open Source community is mostly people he put out of business during the dot com blow-out. This is pay-back.


Hi Wolfie. I've also heard that many Windows-targeted viruses have been created by Microsoft insiders!

Anonymous said...

I think he leaves because he knows that the company is in one big mess... It has grown too fast, and now there's no control within the company.

If he'd stayed, he would have had to spend the 10 next years firing people, cleaning up the mess and regaining the control.

I think he looks at that, and decides that it's just not worth it...

Beside's, his initial goal as a young entrepeneur was "one computer on every desk". He has achieved that. Maybe that's also a reason that he doesn't want to carry on anymore.