Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

How to Piss Off the Second Wealthiest Man On Earth

Speaking of Mix-N-Mash, IMO Jonathan Snook is the dumbest guy on the planet. He gets invited to this super-secret event, when he gets to ask one of the most influential people on the planet a single question, and he uses it to tell him that his life's work basically meant nothing.

Todd Bishop described a cleaned-up version of the exchange yesterday. LiveSide posted the transcript, and I'm going to post this particular exchange in its entirety, because there are some telling comments in there about the way Microsoft does business. If you want to read the rest of what happened, you should definitely read the whole thing, it is a good read.

Jonathan Snook: My question is more regarding (off mike). I've often felt that Microsoft has certainly been reactionary (off mike).

BILL GATES: Especially when we started the company. (Laughter.) I knew that three years later, Apple would come along. It was (just a reaction ?). (Laughter.)

Jonathan Snook: So, like, I mean, think of like Word (inaudible) or WordPerfect before (off mike).

BILL GATES: Oh, really? (Laughter.) When do you think Microsoft did its first word processor, just out of curiosity?

Jonathan Snook: Apparently it was before my time. (Laughter.)

BILL GATES: Way before WordPerfect, way before Bruce Bastian started school at BYU. Anyway --

Jonathan Snook: What year was that?

BILL GATES: The myth of all these things. We did 8080 word processors, 8080, eight-bit machine word processors. Every stupid thing we did first. (Laughter.)

PARTICIPANT: Let it be known.

BILL GATES: I mean, I'll date myself. Has anybody ever used a Model 100, Radio Shack Model 100? Okay, that was the first portable computer. It's a Z80 based system. It had this nice little word processor in it. You didn't have to give save commands. It had an eight-line LCD, 8 by 40 character LCD type thing.

Why does the IBM character set have all the characters it has in it? Because I put the Wang word processing characters in, because I thought, oh, maybe we'll do a Wang type word processor.

Who did Microsoft's word processor? Who? A guy named Charles Simone. Who is Charles Simone? Go back to the annals of Xerox PARC, and look at who wrote the first bitmap graphics word processor, a guy named Charles Simone, Dr. Charles Simone. Look at his PhD thesis on the thing.

Anyway, he started in 1980, after we'd done our first word processor. He came in because he believed in doing bitmap word processors. But anyway --

Jonathan Snook: Well, then let me rephrase my question.

BILL GATES: I mean, come on. (Laughter.) Do you guys remember Electric Pencil, do you remember WordStar? WordPerfect was late. We were early. The midrange is guys like Electric Pencil and WordStar. Now, we didn't win in word processing until people bet against graphics user interface, and we bet on graphics user interface, and people kind of messed up. There were even some good word processors, but they got messed up. What was that one on the Mac that was really good? FullWrite? FullWrite was actually a very good word processor, but they never took it anywhere. Anyway. But we were imitating them. (Laughter.)

Jonathan Snook: There's a myth that Microsoft doesn't innovate. How do you feel that Microsoft can change that attitude?

BILL GATES: We can't change it. If you think we just imitate, then that's -- you just can't change it.

Did we do personal computing? Who did that damn personal computing thing? When I bought that 8008 for $360 down at Hamilton (Avenue ?), what was that?

Anyway, tablet computers, is there somebody else out there doing tablet computers? IPTV, is there somebody else out there doing -- by definition what we do is the baseline. Everything Microsoft does is the baseline, and what we don't do, that's what's innovative I guess. (Laughter.) And by that definition the other guys do all the innovative things.

I remember Google invented Web search. No one did it before they did. It's very interesting how they did that. (Laughter.)

In the computer industry the person who does something first and the person who does it successfully, they are rarely the same, but the memory is -- I mean, people think Apple Computer was an early personal computer company. Well, let's see, I had licensed 17 people to do personal computer basics before I did the Applesoft BASIC, before I went out with Steve Wozniak and did the version that worked with a cassette tape, because they didn't have the disk yet. But Apple invented personal computing.

So, let history be rewritten at all times. But there's no way to get it straight, I guess. Go look at what Microsoft Research is doing, and then decide who are imitating and let me know.

Jonathan Snook: Well, I'm sure that (off mike) Microsoft Research (off mike).

BILL GATES: I'm sorry?

Jonathan Snook: The stuff coming out of Microsoft Research (off mike).

BILL GATES: All our products are based -- all our products are based on stuff that came out of Microsoft Research. We are playing catch-up in Web search. What things are we behind in? Some design and usability things we could be better in, search we could be better in. So, we have categories where we need to match and exceed what a brilliant company has done. Adobe has done a great job with Flash, it's a very nice piece of work. Is it good that there's some competitor trying to make it better? Who knows? But, yes, they were the first mover in many elements of that. I can talk to you about people who failed who did it before them, but it doesn't really matter; they got out there and they drove the very big numbers.

So, we always have a few categories like that, but most of our revenue -- who's revolutionizing management software? Who's revolutionizing security software? I mean, seriously, who do you think? The business computing market, which is way bigger than the consumer computing market, no one pays attention to it. Even in the Wall Street Journal, and you think, oh, this is the paper they're going to tell me about business computing; no, it's all about consumer computing. It's okay, but thank God for business computing, because it allows us to price our consumer computing stuff super cheap, and still pay the salaries of these wonderful researchers who like to be paid.

Anyway, I'm -- (laughter.) It's not the first time I've heard that. I'm not -- (laughter) -- it's a very common view that if you figure out how I can get rid of it, I will do so.

If you're going to ask a question like that, at the very least, you should have something concrete to back it up with. Maybe he thought he was going to accomplish something with the question, but instead he put his ignorance on display for the world to see. Here's a piece of advice, Jonathan: You don't get to the stature he's at in life by being an imitator, you idiot. He probably did a few things right along the way. For you to assume that he didn't shows your lack of maturity.

Just so you know, Mix-N-Mash event organizers, if you ever put that event on again, and need someone who isn't going to waste Bill's time by being an ignorant moron, you know how to get in touch with me. I'd love to have the opportunity to sit at a private event with him, and I'm sure I could come up with a question or two that wouldn't insult his intelligence or life's work.

UPDATE: I've posted a follow-up to this here.

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Comments

  • Bob said:

    Pissing him off would have been okay had he stuck to any of the numerous things that MSFT can rightly be criticized for. But as you say, where he failed was in taking on Bill without facts. As the saying goes, don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

    December 6, 2007 3:53 PM
  • But Bob, if a guy invites you to his home, do you go in ready to criticize, like Snooky-boy here, or do you do what Molly did, and ask the question in such a way that spur Bill into action?

    December 6, 2007 6:09 PM
  • Dileepa said:

    But Robert, this did serve a purpose. You will never get to see Microsoft or BillG ever saying things like this, which I think they should. I am really happy that this triggered BillG to respond in kind!

    December 6, 2007 6:45 PM
  • Bob said:

    "But Bob, if a guy invites you to his home, do you go in ready to criticize, like Snooky-boy here, or do you do what Molly did, and ask the question in such a way that spur Bill into action?"

    Convention obviously says you're polite and don't ruffle feathers. But I actually respect the guy for trying to cover a tougher subject. Plus, I've seen Bill in action in his own "home" - and he can be a real ***. So, what goes around comes around, and he's a big boy.

    Back on topic, I think there's a very good case to be made that MSFT has not been very innovative, especially in light of the huge R&D spend (though it's improving slowly). Snook just didn't have the facts to make it and imo ended up embarrassing himself. Tough questions like that also give MSFT a chance to make their counter case more forcefully - as Bill successfully did here. Something that MSFT needs to do more of (can you say Vista?).

    December 6, 2007 8:09 PM
  • Carlos said:

    Don't ask for questions unless you can take the heat.  What do you want, a fake FEMA style press conference with fake reporters?

    December 6, 2007 8:29 PM
  • So Todd Bishop brings up a good point in a post about my take on the whole Mix-N-Mash thing with Jonathan

    December 6, 2007 9:27 PM
  • Heh, you had to have been there but it was a jovial conversation. He wasn't pissed off by any means. (as I think is obvious by the numerous *laughter*s found in the transcription)

    In no way did I tell him "that his life's work basically meant nothing." However, the way I originally phrased the question was that I felt Microsoft was reactionary. In other words, they often entered markets after they had been established. The fact of the matter is that most companies fall under this category. Very few revolutionize or are very innovative yet do quite well once they've entered those markets. (The evolutionary and not revolutionary comment was even made by Gates himself, if not in response to me, in response to someone else that day.)

    December 6, 2007 9:35 PM
  • dollslikeus said:

    I remember the old tape computer mine was a atari and I had to buy books to get programs and I had to type them into the computer .

    If you made one mistake the program won't work . I typed in educational programs for my sons . I had lots of them the boys liked them . If they missed a question they got a frown if they got the answer right they got a smily face . I flunked typing in high school so it was alot of work not very many people appreciate how far the computer has came but I do .

    December 7, 2007 7:31 AM
  • Rollin D said:

    Quote = "Just so you know, Mix-N-Mash event organizers, if you ever put that event on again, and need someone who isn't going to waste Bill's time by being an ignorant moron, you know how to get in touch with me. I'd love to have the opportunity to sit at a private event with him, and I'm sure I could come up with a question or two that wouldn't insult his intelligence or life's work."

    Translation = "Ooh, what I wouldn't pay to have Bill notice me!"

    December 7, 2007 10:29 PM
  • Throzz said:

    Rollin D - good one and right on target :)

    December 8, 2007 3:53 AM
  • Phuge Withford said:

    Well, I guess then that makes you the second dumbest guy on the planet.

    December 8, 2007 4:57 PM
  • December 12, 2007 3:28 AM
  • January 11, 2008 10:44 PM
  • January 12, 2008 12:52 AM
  • How to Piss Off the Second Wealthiest Man On Earth - Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

    September 15, 2014 6:33 PM