So Todd Bishop brings up a good point in a post about my take on the whole Mix-N-Mash thing with Jonathan Snook's question about Microsoft and innovation. He says that the question talked about an issue a lot of people thing about, and prompted a lively exchange that was apparently enjoyable, so no harm was done.
I obviously wasn't there, so I don't know the air of the room at the time. It seemed to me based on the text, that Bill was pretty pissed off, and masked it very well with good humor. Now, granted I could have very well come off like an idiot when asking someone who is arguably the most powerful man on the planet a question. But, if I had the opportunity to do so (an opportunity which I would probably never get again), I would have thoroughly researched my question, practiced it, etc, so that my exact point got across without any ambiguity.
So in Jonathan's explanation (which I didn't have at the time I wrote the piece), he said that Rob Howard beat him to the punch about the question on Corporate Culture (had I been in the room with Rob Howard, I would have assumed he would have asked what amounted to a blogging question, sine he was one of Microsoft's first bloggers), so he had to come up with something else. Alright, I get that, and I'll retract my statement about him not deserving to be there for lack of preparation. But based on the way I read it, the question seemed pretty disrespectful, and of course Bill Gates would get defensive about it. I'm glad he could have what I'm told is a decent laugh about it.
But at the same time, even his explanation I don't get. He says:
My intention wasn't to say Microsoft doesn't innovate because I think they do but rather to open up the discussion to discuss ways that Microsoft could empower those within the organization to innovate (like Google does by allowing employees to work on their own projects).
Anyone who has any day-to-day experience with Microsoft knows that they are doing innovative things. He had just seen Microsoft Surface not two hours before. is that not innovative? Microsoft was the first to build a data network of watches using FM radio. Just because it didn't take off, does that mean it's not innovative? Is Silverlight not innovative? I mean, come on. Just because Bill doesn't wear a turtleneck doesn't mean Microsoft doesn't do innovative things.
It just seemed similar to getting a private audience with the Pope, and using your time to ask him if he *really* believed in God, or if he just liked wearing cool hats. You can't say that his company is "reactionary" and expect not to get a passionate reaction.
But I'm getting off-track. Jonathan, I apologize. The transcript obviously doesn't accurately characterize the exchange. You're a lucky b@stard for getting to go, and I'm glad everyone had a good time.