June 27, 2008
Posted: 02:38 PM ET
Okay, here's a quick little muse on the official end of Bill Gates's Microsoft career.
Nearly ten years ago, an entertaining book called "The Plot to Get Bill Gates" chronicled the widespread perception that the founder of Microsoft was the very embodiment of villainy - a real-life Doctor Evil, or Snidely Whiplash, on the verge of eradicating any trace of competition in the home computing world. The EC and the US Justice Department were after him, legal Ahabs chasing the Great White Whale of Redmond, Washington. Gates forced other hardware manufacturers to swallow his bundled software whole. He built a fatuously unneccessary mansion. He was decidedly dour and condescending in his rare, tightly-controlled public appearances. And maybe worst of all: This billionaire, this ruthless tycoon, this fabulously successful Evil Genius looked just like the guy who used to get beaten up in your high school gym class.
Today, Gates takes a big step toward one of the greatest image reversals in history since Ebenezer Scrooge turned jolly. While he'll retain his Microsoft chairmanship, Gates is embarking on a "reordering" of life's priorities that will have him focusing on the staggeringly large charitable effort he started several years ago with his wife, Melinda. Their charity dwarfs that of previous tycoons like the Fords and Rockefellers, tackling tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases that kill millions in the developing world. Dollar-for-dollar, it's easily the biggest philanthropic effort in human history.
So, the question remains: Did Gates have a Charles Dickens-like life-changing revelation? Or is he consumed with changing his place in history? Or was it, as Gates himself has said, a "scolding" from our old CNN boss, Ted Turner, that the "super-lucky" should give much of their money back. Answer: Who cares? Hats off to him.
So, I'm no longer one of those out to "get" Bill Gates. I even forgive him for the Vista Operating System. I'll take a few extra "error" messages, and resist getting mad at a guy who's saving tens of thousands of lives– with much more good, desperately-needed work likely to follow.
Peter Dykstra Executive Producer CNN Science, Tech & Weather
Filed under: Internet
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