Feeds

Gates becomes a higher power

Step down really a step up

Boost IT visibility and business value

Large groups are covert Microsoft evangelists; local authorities, for example, have been discovered to be doing "independent research" into the effectiveness of SQL Server vs Oracle, or the return-on-investment benefits of Windows over Linux which is, usually, powerfully persuasive of the superiority of the Redmond product.

Scratch the surface, and you are liable to find that this independent research has been done for them by Microsoft. In exchange, yes, money has changed hands, or at least, goods and services to large value.

Personally, I don't have a problem with this sort of lobbying. It's a part of our society, and until society finds a way of regulating it, it seems ridiculous to expect a corporation to fail to exploit it. And, as Bill said to me at that breakfast chat: "It's important for a corporate leader to know the difference between what is actually illegal, and what people assume should be illegal."

Gates got his big break, of course, in exactly such a way. He and Paul Allen wrote a Basic interpreter for Altair, and everybody assumed that the intellectual proper rights for that interpreter belonged to Altair. It was not so; and Microsoft's M-Basic became an industry standard.

Whenever Microsoft has rather lost its way, legally, it has been at a time when for one reason or another, Bill has taken his hand off the tiller. The Stac scandal (disk compression software) looks to me like a case in point; as was the anti-trust lawsuit in America.

So for me, the important question for the future of Microsoft is: "Just how much control over executive decisions will Bill Gates have, when he becomes merely chairman of Microsoft in another two years?", and :"If he is taken out of the loop, how quickly will the corporation run aground in some massive anti-trust disaster?"

As software architect, his loss will be trivial. Today, Microsoft may claim to be innovative, but it really doesn't have scope to do that. It has an albatross around its corporate neck: the need to stay compatible at the Active-X level with the mistakes of IBM when it designed the original PC.

That's a basically, fundamentally insecure architecture. It has led to a platform too complex to maintain in a better than marginally stable condition, and real innovation would threaten that stability - just at the point where Microsoft really needs to deal with a rising tide of concern about security and vulnerability. The job of software architect is basically a case of putting out fires and making sure nobody starts any new ones.

As chairman, without needing to worry about whether Vista will be 18 or 30 months late, his influence could paradoxically be far greater. As a Captain of industry, his guidance is far more than just "some geek with money" - he understands the law and what is possible, and what is not, better than any of his contemporaries.

And his approach to getting things done is legendary.

Shortly before his death, Douglas Adams took me to a restaurant in Kensington to chat about "stuff" including the Starship Titanic computer game, and to catch up on gossip - something we didn't do as often as we wanted. One of his projects was the Mountain Gorilla.

"I said to the group who was raising money that I thought I might be able to get the ear of Bill Gates," said Adams. "I sent him an email and, sure enough, I got an appointment to fly out and see him. When I met him, he had just one question: 'How much will it take?' - not 'How much do you want?' but what's the budget..."

Adams explained that the first year, they had a target of X million... Gates interrupted. "No, I mean, how much is the complete budget. How much will it take to solve the problem of the Mountain Gorilla, permanently?"

Be assured that the mind which tackled that problem is now considering how to solve the problem of Linux.

Permanently... ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.