Requiem for Bill Gates

“Gates was merely the best businessman ever born. He was ruthless. But capitalism is ruthless. It is a system. And it is that system – not his operating systems – that made Gates so damned big. Gates was not an inventor and innovator and I’ll argue that – his prognosticating books aside – he was no visionary. He was an exploiter. His first product was another version of the Basic programming language. His master stroke was taking the essence of a now-forgotten operating system called CP/M and turning it into MS-DOS, the neurology of the personal-computer revolution. He took the tool that truly created the technology age, VisiCalc – the spreadsheet that let business people ask ‘what if?’, which is what put computers on every office desk in the world – and turned it into Excel, part of his Office suite that also included Word, which itself was really just an adaptation of WordStar. He took the art of the Apple Lisa and Mac and turned it into the clumsy painting-on-velvet, Windows. Gates took others’ innovations and turned them into products and profits. Every great invention needs a business genius to bring it to market. For software, that was Gates,” Jeff Jarvis writes for The Guardian.

“My teenage son and webmaster, Jake, a computer genius (if you’ll allow me a link of paternal pride) since the age of 3, has admired and even idolized Gates for giving him the tools he loved, tools that empowered and taught him and helped shape his way of thinking,” Jarvis writes.

MacDailyNews Note: Perusing Jarvis’ link to his son’s webpage, MacDailyNews reader “Dan” noticed that Jake dumped Gates’ Windows in July 2005 for the superior operating system: As of July 2005, I have discovered that I am a Mac addict at heart and have been from the moment I set my hands on my shiny, new eMac. Since then, I am always looking for new tricks to improve the already great OS X with everything from freeware to commonly-known keyboard shortcuts.

“But then came the internet, the great invention that by its very open essence defies productization,” Jarvis writes. “In spite of government fears in the U.S. and the EU – and try as he might – Gates couldn’t take it over and exploit it. This was not his only failure. Gates tried to become a media mogul – in a local listings service, in a news magazine, in a TV network, and in a web portal – but that eluded him. In an era when everyone can now master media, Gates could not. So perhaps this is indeed the end of the Gates era. And if anyone is smart and ruthless enough to know that, it’s probably Gates.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Tsk, tsk, nary a mention of illegal acts. Yes, capitalism is ruthless, but there actually are rules. Gates and his company broke them. Repeatedly. Gates should never be lauded as “the best businessman ever born.” That simply is not true. And should Gates really be praised for sprinkling his ill-gotten gains upon charities worldwide? Isn’t that merely his penance to be executed without praise? Where was the charity for Netscape and their employees? Or for Gary Kildall? Or for innumerable others?

We can all now look at Gates and ask, “What did he really give the world?” Bill Gates gave the world an upside-down and backwards bad simulation of the Apple Mac and a bloated, insecure Office suite. He sold it to so many because so many early on were ignorant of what a personal computer was for and they lacked the ability to imagine what it could be. They bought what their equally-ignorant friends, family, and co-workers bought. It’s that simple.

What we really want to know is: will we ever be able to measure the extent by which Bill Gates retarded the world’s progress? Any Mac user who’s seen their Windows brethren struggle so mightily trying (and often failing in frustration) to do something that is easily accomplished on a Mac understands what we mean. So, what do you think, how many years worth of progress did Bill Gates cost the world? 10 years? 20?

[UPDATE: 2:55pm EDT: Added Jake Jarvis switcher info.]

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Related articles:
Will Bill Gates really be able to stay away from Microsoft? – June 15, 2006
Bill Gates to transition out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft – June 15, 2006


  1. MDN: “Any Mac user who’s seen their Windows brethren struggle so mightily trying (and often failing in frustration) to do something that is easily accomplished on a Mac understands what we mean.”

    FUD and stupid, MDN.

    I can do the same thing in Windows on my Mac as with OSX.
    You think writing an e-mail, surfing the internet, using Word, editing a photo in Photoshop is different in Windows than in OSX?

    Sheesh you guys are lame. Can you tell which OS on my Mac I am using to write this note?

  2. very publically donating to charities (he name a foundation after himself) was one of the smartest business moves he ever did. people couldn’t despise his wealth, and with every purchase of windows, they could say, “I’m helping out a good cause in the end.”

  3. I think this guy is pretty dead on in describing the Gates legacy as it pertains to technology. The guy is not a visionary, but an exploiter is the best possible description. In many way, Microsoft gained their marketshare dominace without any competition. They took advantage of the one factor that holds true in many markets perticularly the US market in that people rarely are smart enough to see value beyond the initial price point, and commoditizing Windows onto every crap PC box is what made MS what it is today.


    Bet you can’t tell which word editor I am using! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” /> *smug superior Linux look*

    ***USE GOOGLE FOR YOUR ONLINE SEARCHING….GO TO http://WWW.GOOG……okay, you get the point already i guess***

  5. “Steve [Ballmer] is the best CEO I could imagine for Microsoft – he is changing the company in ways it needs to be changed. He is bringing in new leadership at all levels. And, he is focused on the long-term – making Microsoft a great company not just today but for decades to come.”

    – Bill Gates

  6. Many (all?) of Bill’s donations come with strings attached. Read an article about him donating millions of dollars and it usually turns out that he’s donating millions of dollars worth of Windows computers, not cash!

    It’s also worth noting that his philanthropy didn’t start until well after he married, and his wife essentially pushed him into it.

  7. Acknowledging Gates’ ruthless business tactics in no way diminishes his charitable works. Unless, you consider some of the money he has as ill-gotten. And there are things to question there…

    Though I believe he has others’ interests at heart, there is a financial reason for him to establish a foundation. It allows him and his family to avoid many taxes while drawing a large salary from the pile of money they sit on. This is common. What else could he do with such a pile of cash– buy Cuba?

    He is no saint, but he’s also no devil. Like everyone, he has many sides, so to pin him as one thing or another is ridiculous and shortsighted.

  8. Gates was the best businessman ever born.

    Business is like football (soccer). He was a scum bag on the playing field, clipping people when the ref was not looking, tugging at outfits, nimbly talking his way out of red card after red card, but he scored and the fans loved him.

    fans = stock holders

  9. Bill Gates donates his money in a very public way to maximize the public relations benefit of his donation, as is his right.

    Steve Jobs donates his money in a very private way and completely avoids tooting his own horn, as is his right.

    Personally, I prefer the latter approach.

  10. Lets not get carried away with the thinking the Gates is a uber generous saint to the worlds poor… the amounts he has donated are meger at best considering his net worth. He just makes sure it gets front page coverage, thus making him look like a hero.

    If a give a dollar to a homeless person is “that” worthy of a lead story on the 5 o’clock news? Should I also get a merit badge and a key to the city?


    MW: ever

    as in will people “ever” get a clue?

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