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Microsoft was 'willing' to buy WhatsApp says Bill Gates

Founder also feels core Microsoft products need 'more than a tuneup' for the cloud

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Microsoft was “willing” to buy WhatsApp, Bill Gates has told Rolling Stone.

The magazine's interview with Gates ranges widely, revealing his recent dinner with Charles Koch and their discussion about climate change (the problem is urgent, action is needed but the US can't be expected to lead and renewable energy has big problems) the wisdom of spending on development aid (not every investment pays off, just ask venture capitalists, but we can't not try) and even God (Science makes it harder to believe, but there are no explanations for many things).

The Reg is a technology publication, so we'll let you read the whole interview for those thoughts. In our, and Gates, home patch, his observations start with Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp, which Gates lauds as Mark Zuckerberg's “aggressiveness is wise” although he thinks “the price is higher than I would have expected”.

“It shows that user bases are extremely valuable.”

“Microsoft was willing to buy it, too,” Gates added. “I don't know if it was for $19 billion, but the company's extremely valuable.”

On Google, Gates says feels it is at a phase in its life when it can afford to spend money on long shots. “When you have a lot of money, it allows you to go down a lot of dead ends,” he said. “We had that luxury at Microsoft in the Nineties. You can pursue things that are way out there. We did massive interactive­TV stuff, we did digital-wallet stuff. A lot of it was ahead of its time, but we could afford it.”

Microsoft, he said, may need to be a little more like Google as it contemplates cloudy success. “Office and the other Microsoft assets that we built in the Nineties and kept tuning up have lasted a long time. Now, they need more than a tuneup. But that's pretty exciting for the people inside [Microsoft] who say, 'We need to take a little risk and do some new stuff' – like Google.”

Asked about Edward Snowden, Gates said “I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero” but welcomes the debate he has sparked “about the general notion of under what circumstances should they [government] be allowed to do things.” ®

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