Microsoft going nuts

This whole Bill Gates stepping down thing is totally weird:

In a press conference held Thursday after the stock markets had closed for regular trading, Gates announced that over the next two years he will gradually step away from his daily responsibilities at the company he co-founded some 30 years ago.

Microsoft’s Chief Technical Officer Ray Ozzie will immediately assume the title of chief software architect,

Gate has admired Ozzie for a long time, for reasons never clear to anybody but himself. Ozzie created Lotus Notes (“Usenet with pictures”) and a gruesome Notes clone called Groove. If Ozzie’s vision replaces Gates’, Microsoft surely will go into the dumper.

The two-year transition plan bears close watching. My guess is that before two years is up Gates will change his mind and realize he needs to stick around.

The stock is basically flat since the announcement, I’m guessing Wall St. doesn’t believe it either.

Jeff Jarvis, the guy who wants the FCC to regulate the Internet but not TV, comments at the Guardian’s site:

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.

…and I respond:

When I first met Bill Gates he was head of a 12 man company struggling to find buyers for BASIC (and that counts the part-timers and contractors.) He struggled and fought to get where he is.

His legacy is actually very simple: a computer on every desk. (And also: in every briefcase, and soon in every living room.) It’s an awesome legacy, and nobody should try and diminish it with sour grapes, class envy, or basic stupidity.

When he had to, he wrote original code; when he could, he bought code from others (MS DOS was bought from Seattle Computer, where it was called SB-86); and when he absolutely needed to, he created hardware such as the cute little ergonomic keyboards and mice that are the best in the business today.

Is the software perfect? Of course not, it never is, but it’s a several steps above Linux and in stability and hardware support, and massively more popular than the boutique Mac OS.

Microsoft has so many bitter critics that it doesn’t get the credit it should. Word for DOS was light-years ahead of Wordstar, and a direct descendant of the word processors its architect Charles Simonyi had build for Xerox and at UC Berkeley. Windows was designed by the same guy, according to methods he’d devised at Xerox again. Apple’s Mac and Lisa were stolen from the same lab.

Gates’ genius was in part the recognition that software doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful, but it does have to strive to out-perform the competition one way or another.

But it was also in part the recognition that any opportunity that he didn’t grab would be taken by somebody else, sooner or later.

I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of Bill Gates. The anointed successors aren’t half the man he is between the whole lot of them, and I can’t see him sailing off into the sunset to sip drinks with umbrellas in them while there are so many fun new things to do with computers that would otherwise not have his name on them.

If this is the end of the road for Gates, the computer business will be the poorer.