Friday, June 16, 2006

Obligatory BillG post

Well, it's finally happened: BillG announces that he's leaving "The Soft" ... in a while.

I think it's telling that Ray Ozzie, a relative newcomer to the company, instead of an old-timer, is taking over as Chief Software Architect. It seems to indicate that enough people have finally agreed that a breath of fresh air is needed as far as the company's technical strategy goes, and that this would be best served by not promoting from within. I only hope that there is enough internal goodwill towards Ozzie, and that he has the political savvy to manoeuver effectively through the intricate political web at MS, to get a fair crack at turning things around.

Predictably, the "I remember when Bill ..." stories are starting to emerge. So, in that spirit let me share mine:
- My friend Brandon and I almost got "arrested" by the Microsoft security guards for rollerblading in circles around Bill's car in a Microsoft garage for a few minutes and waving at the cameras trained on the car. This was our way of attracting the attention of campus security on a weekend [when we'd failed to find them by any other means] because we wanted to give them an employee badge that somebody had lost. Needless to say, they were not particularly pleased with the manner in which we chose to locate them -- their parting words were something like "Next time, just pick up a phone and call xxxx" [the extension for campus security, which is written on every phone ...], with the unstated ending "... you @#$#@ retards."
- On another occasion, I was bombing around campus on my rollerblades [again], gathering speed in order to jump across a stretch of grass, and noticed a man walking towards me, coming at the bit of grass from the opposite direction. As I was accelerating, my train of thought was something along the lines of "That looks like ... nah, it can't be ... but it sure does look like ...", at which point I hit my take-off point, jumped and realized that it was indeed Bill, that I was flying through the air 3 feet away from him, and had just barely missed taking down the richest man in the world hard. I almost wiped out on my landing and looked back at him with a "Dude, so sorry !" expression, but he just shook his head slightly and kept on walking.

I did have a couple more "official" interactions with him, once as a member of a small group of folks who got to talk with him for an hour, and once by sitting in on an executive review he was a part of. Neither of those was particularly memorable, though -- in the first case, the conversation confined itself to fairly neutral topics, like "How big a threat is Linux really ?" and in the second case he didn't have any of his famed "That's the stupidest f@@#$ng thing I've ever heard" moments.

As I've said before, I think Bill's philantropic legacy may very well end up being as big as, if not bigger than, his contribution to "putting a computer on every desk". The bit I admire most about him is his sense of noblesse oblige [or, in SpiderMan terms, that "with great power comes great responsibility"], and his willingness to act on that. I've occasionally though that his wealth and influence must, in some ways, be a burden, because he basically has no excuse to not try to fix things that are broken in the world. And, short of giving away all his money, there's always the "... but you could be doing more" accusation. The average Joe, on the other hand, can hide behind the "What can I, a nobody do, to fix XXX ?" excuse. Bill doesn't have that escape hatch, and the impressive thing is that he realizes that and doesn't try to half-step by semi-randomly giving away money here and there -- instead, he's opting to devote all his time to fixing large problems.

Meanwhile, the Slashdot Linux/Unix fanatics, much like the US military and intelligence agencies after the fall of Communism, are starting to realize that they're going to need a new mortal enemy. My favorite comment from the few I read:

Let's see:

Gates - creates world's most successful company, becomes world's richest man, leaves day job to spend billions on charity.
Us - Made lame borg jokes for 5 years, finally released a browser that's better than IE if you ignore all the unfixed copy/paste bugs. Convinced a few people that Unix sucked less than Windows.

Dude, I think *he* won."

Yes, he did.


Anonymous Uncle Al said...

Consider the future to be obtained from putting $40 billion into the Severely Gifted and the Profoundly Gifted. Consider the future to be obtained from putting $40 billion into HIV awareness. In which future do you wish to live?

The meek shall inherit the Earth, and Hell with it. Money will not change that. They aren't poor because they lack money. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is attempting to purchase a Nobel Peace Prize.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Uncle Al is a serious weirdo.

4:47 PM  

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