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Microsoft Editorial

The Softening of a Software Man 617

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the nothing-says-i'm-sorry-like-cold-hard-cash dept.
theodp writes to tell us that New York Magazine has an interesting editorial stating that no one is afraid of Microsoft anymore. The article argues that Microsoft has noticeably been adrift in the wake of Gates' philanthropy, which some cynics suspect is a Rockefeller-like attempt to 'fumigate his fortune' as he makes a play for the history books. From the article: "Like the robber barons, Bill Gates has moved from trying to take over the world to trying to save it."
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The Softening of a Software Man

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  • Um... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:12PM (#14422278) Homepage
    Um... Perhaps Bill Gates really ISN'T the antichrist...



    Which leaves only Steve Ballmer.
    • Re:Um... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zootm (850416) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:19PM (#14422313)

      I still think a good case can be made for Steve Jobs being the antichrist. Without ever making himself look evil he manages to tempt countless people into sin through techno-lust, and the vitriol exhibited by rabid Mac-lovers towards basically anyone who disagrees with them in the slightest can hardly be thought of as "natural" hatred.

      • Re:Um... (Score:5, Funny)

        by cmacb (547347) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:30PM (#14422392) Homepage Journal
        "I still think a good case can be made for Steve Jobs being the antichrist. Without ever making himself look evil he manages to tempt countless people into sin through techno-lust, and the vitriol exhibited by rabid Mac-lovers towards basically anyone who disagrees with them in the slightest can hardly be thought of as "natural" hatred."

        LIAR!
      • Re:Um... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:33PM (#14422406) Journal
        There are certainly hard, well-documented instances of Steve Jobs sinning against his fellow man. Going way, back, i.e. to the instance where Wozniak helped him (performed the whole task, really) by optimizing some hardware for Atari. Jobs received a $5000 bonus from Atari for the task, but then told Woz that he got $700 and gave him a 'half' amount of $350.

        No, you get the feeling from Microsoft that they just roll on like a column of amoral tanks over their opponents, whereas Jobs' actions make him seem like a targeted, deliberate agent for the secret police.

        And in the 1980s, when Microsoft was beating their opponents in the marketplace with over- (and under-) handed business deals, Apple was running opponents out of business (i.e. the whole Apple II clone industry) in the courtroom.

        • Re:Um... (Score:3, Informative)

          by kuzb (724081)

          Thanks, I totally agree with your statement. Many of the new generation are not aware of what happened during those days. As an owner of a Laser 128 [apple2clones.com] (which I loved to death) I followed with interest Apple's destruction of the many available Apple clones [apple2clones.com] which were out there. Even after that, I purchased an Apple //gs [fortunecity.com], just to watch Steve Jobs destroy that platform too, as he pitted his own engineers against each other in a ridiculous internal power struggle which eventually killed the //gs. Many of my f

        • Re:Um... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by StikyPad (445176)
          Who doesn't know that story? Let's hear something more recent.. Nobody wants to, or should be, overly judged on their actions from 25 years ago. Most people have done things they're not proud of within the past week, let alone the past two and a half decades. I'm not advocating a group hug or anything, but let's be realistic. Besides, there are much better examples of his autodiestic tendencies.
      • Re:Um... (Score:3, Funny)

        by ggvaidya (747058)
        Well, he is trying to get people to try an Apple ...
  • can you blame him? (Score:4, Informative)

    by User 956 (568564) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:12PM (#14422281) Homepage
    New York Magazine has an interesting editorial stating that no one is afraid of Microsoft anymore. The article argues that Microsoft has noticeably been adrift in the wake of Gates' philanthropy,

    Well, it does take a lot of effort and energy to be competing with Bono. [time.com]
  • by CaptSnuffy (843104) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:14PM (#14422287)
    His head is much smaller in person.
  • Yeesh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fadeaway (531137) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:15PM (#14422294)
    I'm by no means a MS fanboy, but.. c'mon already. The man and his family has shown more support for worthwhile causes than I'm sure some small countries have. He just can't catch a break around here, can he?
    • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dorkygeek (898295)
      Charity is in fact a very popular PR move.

      • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ultranova (717540)

        Charity is in fact a very popular PR move.

        People who want to look good in public eye do good deeds in public ? It doesn't take much to be modded Insighfull around here, now does it ?

        Not trying to flame you, just wondering about the person who apparently found a previously unknown insight from your statement...

    • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hattig (47930) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:19PM (#14422319) Journal
      I think that many people, as their savings went into orbit, would decide to give more to charity.

      Is giving ~2% of your fortune to charity each year really that amazing?

      It is more worthy than all of the other donations by people, many of whom might be donating a lot more money in percentage terms, or actually donating their time to the cause?

      It's good however, because you don't hear much about other mega-rich people giving to charity. Maybe they do, but don't claim as much publicity from it? And ~2% of a mega-fuck-load is still a fuck-load (20 kilo-fuck-loads!).
      • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HoboMaster (639861) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:32PM (#14422398)
        Bill Gates has given more to charity than anyone EVER. Other billionaires, on the other hand (Trump, for example), have given almost nothing to charity. I think the guy deserves a little credit, regardless of why he's doing it. We can't judge his motives, since we don't know them. We can judge his actions though, and they speak pretty loudly.
        • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Bill Gates has given more to charity than anyone EVER.

          I think the guy deserves a little credit

          No. Giving more than anyone ever (I think once you take inflation into account, that isn't true) means a large impact to the world. It does not mean a large impact to Bill Gates.

          Is it really generous when he can give ten times as much without even noticing the money's gone?

        • "Yeesh" Indeed (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Remember, it's your money he's giving away. By self-serving use and abuse of the US legal system, he stole hundreds of billions of dollars from people all over the world. He was convicted of this in a US court.

          It's great that he's giving some of this money to charity. Personally, I'd rather have the few hundred dollars he's got from me back so that I could choose how to spend it myself. I'd also rather have the businesses he ruined back, and the generation of computer programmers he ruined back, so tha

        • Bill Gates has given more to charity than anyone EVER.

          I disagree. In the New Testament we read about a poor old widow who gave to the temple a couple of coins, which was what she needed to live. Relatively speaking, she gave much more than any millionaire could give.

          On the other hand, if Bill Gates wants to become a good person, WHY DOESN'T HE GIVE US BACK WHAT HE FREAKING STOLE!?

          I mean the monopolic practices, forcing us to pay licenses for Windows, etc etc etc.

          It's as if a rich man exploited poor men but
        • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:5, Funny)

          by hackstraw (262471) * on Sunday January 08, 2006 @04:18PM (#14422979)
          Bill Gates has given more to charity than anyone EVER. Other billionaires, on the other hand (Trump, for example), have given almost nothing to charity. I think the guy deserves a little credit, regardless of why he's doing it. We can't judge his motives, since we don't know them. We can judge his actions though, and they speak pretty loudly.

          I knew a woman once that didn't have much money because she was a "housewife" or "stay at home mom", whichever you prefer.

          She volunteered everywhere she could. The animal shelter, local museums, homeless shelters, Special Olympics walks, cancer drives, the list goes on.

          Everyone thought she was the kindest person in the world, and one day I asked her why she did all of this stuff.

          She said that she absolutely hated her husband and family and would do anything to get out of the house.

      • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by GoofyBoy (44399) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:35PM (#14422424) Journal
        >Is giving ~2% of your fortune to charity each year really that amazing?

        He plans to eventually give it all away, leaving something for his childern.

        Thats a bit more than ~2%.
        • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Skreems (598317)
          I intend to someday be Supreme Emperor of Mars, but until that happens, we're left with Bill donating 2% of his fortune to charity. Never mind the fact that he certainly has investments that get better than that, so what he's really doing is taking interest (money he takes out of the market) and redistributing it to charities. Not that it's not good, but lets be honest about what's going on here.
        • 2% may sound like a reasonable ammount to donate to charities but in practice I doubt many people actually donate that much of their non-megasized income. Lets say X makes an average sized $50k a year... 2% of that is what... $1000? (don't trust my math though...) and how many people really donate $1000 a year to charity? I don't mean they SAY they do on their taxes, or they donate an overvalued used computer or something else so that on paper it looks like $1000, but really donate it straight from their
      • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        reminds me of the Parable of the Widow's mite...
    • I'm by no means a MS fanboy, but.. c'mon already. The man and his family has shown more support for worthwhile causes than I'm sure some small countries have.

      Thats not the issue. Obviously I prefer Gates helping the less fortunate to hoarding his money, I just happen to think that writing a few checks shouldn't buy the guy a hero's legacy and overshadow the 20 years of unethical/monopolistic buisness practices that created said money.
      • Gates would like to go to his grave with some RESPECT. Besides the financial people watching his money, the tech community will have him go down in history as the one who made bad engineering acceptable.

        When he took such an obvious path as creating a nonprofit organization (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and pumping in record billions of $$$ to avoid tax and into a country that is a outsource heaven. Really, who didn't see this coming. But some will give him credit for it. OOps did I mention the B
        • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by thesandtiger (819476) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:39PM (#14422790)

          When he took such an obvious path as creating a nonprofit organization (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and pumping in record billions of $$$ to avoid tax


          I guess you got modded "insightful" by people who are really bad at math.

          Donating money to charity does not leave one with more money than one would have had if one didn't donate at all.

          If I have 120 dollars and I donate 20, I get taxed on the remaining 100 dollars (let's pretend it's 35%) - so I wind up with 65 dollars.

          If I have 120 dollars and I don't donate anything, and I get taxed on the 120 dollars (and let's pretend that the tax rate on 120 dollars is 40%) I wind up with 72 dollars.

          So, you see, even after considering the tax benefits, one does not magically wind up with more money after donating than if they didn't.

          But, you know - if reality were different, I guess maybe you would have a point.
      • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tlosk (761023)
        "Thats not the issue. Obviously I prefer Gates helping the less fortunate to hoarding his money, I just happen to think that writing a few checks shouldn't buy the guy a hero's legacy and overshadow the 20 years of unethical/monopolistic buisness practices that created said money."

        Ok, so what are some examples of things that would be sufficient pennance for his misdeeds? You say that erasing third world debt, immunizing about a third of the worlds children against various diseases, funding a cure for AIDS,
    • Re:Yeesh.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172)
      The man and his family has shown more support for worthwhile causes than I'm sure some small countries have.

      Yes, well, I've just taken everything you had, so now I have more than you, but I gave some small fraction of it to charity, so that's alright then. You are scum because you aren't giving anything of what you don't have anymore to charity. To the almshouse with you where they might deign to bestow the charity of what was once yours upon you, derived from my own generosity.

      You're welcome. I'm here to h
    • Buying karma (Score:3, Insightful)

      Don't be duped. Bill has provided, and continues to provide, evidence that he's ruthless and uncaring when his Microsoft hat is on. If Bill was tuely philanthropic, then he'd be making anonymous contributions. Nope, they're nice and public.

      The $20M he gave to a University library buys him naming rights. $20M to Bill Gates is pocket change. How much "hurt" did he feel making that contribution? About as much as a regular guy would feel if he gave a quarter to charity. To Bill, $20M to see your name written ov

      • Re:Buying karma (Score:4, Insightful)

        by evil9000 (72113) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @04:46PM (#14423120) Homepage
        When he makes big donations in Inda or whatever it is a nice way of buying a good impression and some positive hype when they want to staff up Microsoft India. It is also a nice way of imposing some control. Don't piss off the guy with the dough or he might take his favors elsewhere.

        You are correct. Billg said that he would donate $1 million over 10 years to fight aids in india. He then made a $1billion dollar investment over 4 years to setup microsoft institutions there to fight linux.

        He also likes to play tricks with his money. A $25 million donation to kids in need that really equated to being $25 million in printed MS WinME licences. Nothing like printing your own money and claiming to be giving away vast fortunes.

        He likes giving away money, you see. Thats why hes the richest man in the world.

  • "Embrace, extend and extinguish"
  • by Cryofan (194126) <cryofan AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:18PM (#14422308) Homepage Journal
    Rockefeller, who was perhaps the richest man in all history, also used his fortune via nonprofit foundations, not only to enhance his character as publicly perceived (Gates has already done this), but also to mold and shape the American culture, especially the political culture.

    In fact, arguably, plutocrat fortunes, as used to fund foundations, might be said to be the primary force used to direct and channel American leftism. Read more about this in Roelof's book _THe MASK OF PLURALISM. Basically, her main thesis is that plutocrats funded the large nonprofit foundations so that they could fund leftists who were not oriented towards economic oriented leftism, but instead towards identity politics. Thus, the white lower middle class was turned away from leftism in general. Well, there is more to it than that, but it was a major factor.

    I doubt Gates could ever match the effect that Rockefeller, Scaife, etc had on American political culture. Too many other players in the game now...
    • Basically, her main thesis is that plutocrats funded the large nonprofit foundations so that they could fund leftists who were not oriented towards economic oriented leftism, but instead towards identity politics. Thus, the white lower middle class was turned away from leftism in general.

      Divide and conquer. We can't have the proletariat getting their shit together and organizing, can we? At least not before I pay off my 300-foot yacht.
      • Yes, exactly, and that was certainly not a new tactic. In fact, the system of checks and balances built into the American constitution was actually imported from England where they implemented it because it tended to divide up the people'e power, and set them against each other, paralyzing the power of the people, thus making it harder for us proles to tax the rich more.

        A political scientist named Fresia has a book online that talks about this. It's called _TOWARD AN AMERICAN REVOLUTION_.

        Also, one Richard Bissell, an early CIA honcho who helped start the Ford Foundation with CIA and plutocrat money, said the tactic for destroying leftism was to not debate the leftists about their ideas, but instead to divert their energies to activities and interests that would be less harmful (to the rich and megacorporations, one presumes). The primary diversion created by the Ford Foundation and other nonprofits was Identity Politics/Pluralism/Multiculturalism.

        Divide and Conquer, same as it ever was....
    • So ... they funded leftists in order to reduce leftism?? Are you confused or just confused?
      -russ
      • The huge nonprofit foundations funded leftists. Now there are ALL SORTS of leftists.

        Some sorts of leftists write about stuff like this, "Hey, let's tax the upper class much more so we can pay for universal healthcare, early retirement, and low cost college!"

        Other types of leftists write about stuff like this, "Hey, the whites are racists and they oppress the minorities by enslaving them. And men are oppressing women!"

        And you have some in between those two types.

        Now, you look at supposedly leftist oriented o
    • "...plutocrats funded the large nonprofit foundations so that they could fund leftists who were not oriented towards economic oriented leftism, but instead towards identity politics"

      What is identity politics?

      So what you're saying is that they set up these non-profit foundations to take the 'manpower' (voters, volunteers) etc from real leftism and turn it towards whatever identity politics is?
    • I was reading somewhere, that if you adjusted their various fortunes to account for inflation, etc. People like Carnegie, Mellon and Rockafeller were much richer than Bill Gates.

      As for your foundations, did the conservatives ever get in on the foundation game back in the days?

      I know they've been very busy in the last ~15 years, funding/starting up conservative think tanks, lobbying groups and other organizations.
  • by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:19PM (#14422317) Homepage
    You don't need to look at their stock's performance [yahoo.com] to see that their adrift, look at how their strong-arm tactics are barely continuing to exist (EG, only selling Windows to computer dealers if they only include Microsoft). Now you can tell big brands that you want Linux and AMD and they'll do it and not just have to look for a small outfit to dodge the Microsoft tax. Look at how people would primarily buy MS ware because they want to be "compatible" with everyone else when there's no longer pretty much anything you can do on Windows that you can't do on an alternative OS. Those are concerns only a monopoly can instill to people to pressure them to buy their product, as opposed to quality being the chief factor in a consumer's decision. Look at how they're concentration seems lately to have been on just video games.

    I guess now to stay afloat they're going to have to come up with some good ideas other than selling people antivirus software to patch up their crappy vulnerable OS. That was a good idea, if only for the irony.

    • by dioscaido (541037) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @04:10PM (#14422937)
      You may want to take a look at their quarterly earning reports [microsoft.com]. Last quarter alone they had a 9% increase in revenue (that's a 900 million increase, 10 billion dollars total revenue, just for the *quarter*). And with what? They've barely had any new software releases, and have had security issues with their OS's. But they are still going strong. I'd keep my eye on them in '06. They are having new releases of essentially every big property -- Office, Windows, Visual Studio, SQL, Xbox -- and are predicting double digit growth.
  • Say what you like for good or ill, Mr. Gates has indeed won the rat race, by most of the conventional standards I know.

    What's left after you acquire arbitrarily large amounts of money and power?

  • "Some Cynics" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I imagine the cynics would comprise mostly of the peanut gallery on this site.

    Really, who else do you know other than maladjusted computer geeks really care that much about Bill Gates? What he does with his fortune is almost hardly noticed by the general public, until this year. And very few people would call Gates a robber baron at all.

    The fixation with Bill Gates and Microsoft on slashdot is really unhealthy. You people need to get out more.
    • Robber Barrons (Score:5, Insightful)

      by amightywind (691887) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @05:27PM (#14423318) Journal

      And very few people would call Gates a robber baron at all.

      The parallels between Gates and the robber barrons of 1880-1920 are pretty obvious. Perhaps it is your healthy non-geek detachment that prevents you from observing it. Gates has profoundly distorted an industry of great promise and gathered tremendous wealth to himself through careful construction of a monopoly. He did so through maniacal competitiveness, and cunning much like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford. Has he affected history? Certainly. Positively? Doubtful. His legacy is DRM and the anti-virus industry. Like the robber barrons, later in life he chooses to disgorge some of that wealth in a very public way in an effort to whitewash his image. He may leave his name on a couple of buildings, but posterity will see him reviled like his predecessors.

  • All Men (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tufriast (824996) * on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:23PM (#14422339)
    All men come to realize they reap what they sow. All mean come to realize they too will die, and whatever is said afterward, and how people remember you is all that will remain. Perhaps mortality finally caught up with him, perhaps not. We'll see.
    • Re:All Men (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Helios1182 (629010) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:36PM (#14422431)
      He has said for years that he plans to give most of his fortune to chairity before he dies. Check out the Time Magazine issue for the Man of the Year article. It is actually Bill, Melinda, and Bono that share the title. He makes smart donations, and actually holds the groups accountable. If they piddle away the funds and do nothing the money gets pulled. Apparently that is very very rare in halth care projects. He is gettings results and people across the world are thankfull.
    • I care little what people will remember of me
      after I am dead; it is also best to receive benefits
      now when it matters -- it is too later after death. ( This I presume is
      common thinking, at least of the humans I meet
      so far. I have yet to observe the opposite.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:24PM (#14422344)
    I believe he earned the money. I believe the market is actually free. Therefore I am not afraid of MS. I have never been afraid of MS. The market still gets to choose and up till now, it chooses MS, for many reasons fair and unfair. Natural monopolies may seem unfair, but you are still free to steer the market in a better direction. Only the zealots believe that MS is pure evil and that Gates would need to fumigate his fortune. I wonder what excuse the zealots will use to hate the new leader if it doesn't come from your team?
    • Bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

      by benjamindees (441808)
      The market is not free. Tax structures encourage exactly the type of spending (and selling) that Microsoft happens to engage in.

      The way US taxes work is this: you can make all the money you want, but you have to get rid of it this quarter. If you use it to buy things of value, you pay more taxes. If you fritter it away on worthless services or give it to employees, you pay less taxes. So there are basically two strategies you can take in order to pay the least amount of taxes possible: give away every
      • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alioth (221270)
        Hiring to offset taxes - why? An extra employee costs a LOT more than keeping the money and paying the tax on it.
  • No more enemy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 (933028)
    IBM is not to be feared no more, Microsoft is not to be feared no more, who are we gonna hate and fear now? Google??
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:36PM (#14422433) Homepage
    Philanthropy worked for John D. Rockefeller and John A. MacArthur. Who mentions the Ludlow Massacre [umwa.org] today?

    Almost nobody knows that John D. MacArthur, who funded the "genius" awards (posthumously), made his money with a life insurance company scam. His unauthorized 1969 biography, "The Stockholder" [barnesandnoble.com], by William Hoffman, gives the details. MacArthur introduced mail-order life insurance sold through newspaper ads, and his company, Banker's Life, was notorious for refusing to pay claims.

    If it worked for them, it should work for Gates. Gates isn't even alleged to have killed anyone.

  • by Mancat (831487) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:39PM (#14422446) Homepage
    Gates has given massive amounts of money to various charities ever since Microsoft became successful. This isn't anything new. Maybe, just maybe, Gates is a genuine philanthropist? Of course, if you already hate the man, which so many here do, you could probably never come to accept that.

    Get over it. He doesn't have any alterior motives here. There's no smoke and mirrors. He's just continuing to do what he has done for decades.
  • by stox (131684) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:46PM (#14422488) Homepage
    that just making more money was pointless, and there were better, and more fulfilling, things to do with his time. I hope so, with the fortune he has amassed he could truly accomplish some amazing things.

    Naaahhhhh!!! What was I thinking?
  • by 99luftballon (838486) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:47PM (#14422495)
    Bill is doing a lot of good with his charitable work and that deserves recognition. But if he steps back guess who's going to be running the show. Steve Ballmer has shown himself to be more ruthless than Bill, more aggressive and much more willing to threaten competitors.

    On the other hand Ballmer is also impetuous, and may lead Microsoft back to the law courts.
  • by obender (546976) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @02:49PM (#14422507)
    Bill Gates has moved from trying to take over the world to trying to save it.

    Will future versions be able to read what he saved? And even if they could will it render the same?

  • Bill's Gains (Score:2, Insightful)

    by freddie (2935)
    Bill has amassed his fortune by copying the goods of others (e.g. GUI), by aggressive marketing, by the unnatural rights granted to corporations (IP laws), and by leveraging its initial monopoly which it obtained due to luck.

    But now he is being generous. Should he be given credit for that? Maybe the donations should be made in the name of the public from which he has obtained his fortune while giving nothing in return.
    • Don't you see any contradiction between saying that he has copied the stuff of others and bashing IP laws? I mean, coding your own graphical shell to DOS after coding MacWrite and seeing MacOS and the Xerox Parc stuff is far more original than getting a corporate serial for WinXP. Still, you seem to think that doing the first is bad and trying to stop the latter is also bad.

      I would consider you a troll, but you currently have an "insightful" so I thought I would at least point this out.

  • by C3ntaur (642283) <centaur.netmagic@net> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:09PM (#14422615) Journal
    ...but this little gem will always be a reminder of where he originally came from:

    AN OPEN LETTER TO HOBBYISTS By William Henry Gates III

    February 3, 1976

    An Open Letter to Hobbyists

    To me, the most critical thing in the hobby market right now is the lack of good software courses, books and software itself. Without good software and an owner who understands programming, a hobby computer is wasted. Will quality software be written for the hobby market?

    Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

    The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however, 1) Most of these "users" never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour.

    Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

    Is this fair? One thing you don't do by stealing software is get back at MITS for some problem you may have had. MITS doesn't make money selling software. The royalty paid to us, the manual, the tape and the overhead make it a break-even operation. One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.

    What about the guys who re-sell Altair BASIC, aren't they making money on hobby software? Yes, but those who have been reported to us may lose in the end. They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at.

    I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up, or has a suggestion or comment. Just write to me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

    Bill Gates

    General Partner, Micro-Soft

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 08, 2006 @04:17PM (#14422976)
      The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

      That line is just classic Gates, the computer time may have been worth $40,000 but Gates never paid for it. Gates and Allen did not even have authorization to be using the university machines in question, something Gates himself would probably liken to "theft". I don't think Gates has changed at all, he's still a liar. As for Microsoft, they still market vapourware and I believe the next product will be called "Vista".

  • by Laxitive (10360) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:18PM (#14422655) Journal
    I have some suggestions:

    Why don't we judge companies based on the company's behaviour, and judge individuals based on the individual's behaviour?

    Why don't we stop imagining that somehow a multibillion dollar company is still largely a projection of one man's personality?

    Why don't we acknowledge that contributing to charity does not absolve anyone of responsibility they may have for wrongs they committed in the past?

    Why don't we acknowledge that a person's psyche is not one-dimensional.. that an individual can do good in some contexts and bad in other contexts?

    Does that sound reasonable?

    -Laxitive
    • company's behavior? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by crovira (10242) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:48PM (#14422843) Homepage
      You obviously don't understand corporate culture and how a poisoned athmosphere can perpertuate long after the original source has gone.

      How can a company behave any differently than its employees? Its NOT a living thing. It is a creation of the legal system and its demise is strictly a feature of the economics of the times. They can merge, meld, divest, split and otherwise morph in ways that human beings can't. (A large corporation can sell off a transportation services division and sometinmes, that even mares sense. Try doing that with your legs.)

      Some companies in Europe can date their origin back hundreds of years, longer than any of the individuals working for them. I believe that part of ELF-Aquitaine goes back longer than that.
  • by tryone (243924) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:28PM (#14422714)
    I'm so inspired by Bill's philanthropic spirit, that in future I'm going to use pirated copies of Windows, and give the retail price straight to charity. I'm sure he'll be pleased that I'm saving him the trouble of doing it himself.
  • by ZuperDee (161571) <zuperdee@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:32PM (#14422744) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, I think anyone who discounts Microsoft or doesn't fear them at this point, or who says "their star seems to be fading" needs to look around again. For some time now, there have been some saying that Microsoft is becoming increasingly irrelevant, now that we have companies like Google.

    But to anyone thinks this way, I warn you: some people once thought Netscape and the World Wide Web might make Microsoft irrelevant. Others once thought Java might make Microsoft irrelevant. Some once thought Apple might dethrone Microsoft. Some once thought the Playstation would kill Microsoft. I am willing to concede that the verdict may not be in on the last two points yet, but the XBox 360 is sure making headway in that market, and the iPod, though still the most popular MP3 player, is clearly by NO means secure in its position at this point, as competing music stores AND players are continually nipping at Apple's heels.

    But my point is simply this: In EVERY case but the last two, Microsoft successfully thwarted or killed those technologies, sometimes only after quite a while of making blunders. Though it may have taken a couple years, Internet Explorer ultimately killed Netscape. Java, though still widely used, appears to be stagnating, not growing, as .NET slowly but surely keeps gaining more and more momentum. And Apple, though they may currently have the dominant MP3 player, are still slowly getting nipped at their heels by competitors, and it is beginning to look like their dominance may begin to fade at any moment... And the Macintosh continues to face shrinking market share, to the point where there are now more Linux machines than Macintosh machines out there.

    And to anyone who thinks Firefox is dethroning Internet Explorer, check again: last time I checked, Internet Explorer still has AT LEAST more than 60% market share, even according to some of the most Firefox-dominant survey samples out there, like the audience who visits W3Schools. And for all the talk about ActiveX and its security flaws, that doesn't seem to have put much of a dent in its use--there are STILL quite a lot of applications out there on the web that depend heavily on ActiveX, particularly at places like banks and corporate intranets. It's all very well to say Firefox is right not to support ActiveX because of its insecurities, but for anyone who is stuck with a bank or a corporate intranet that requires ActiveX, there is basically no real alternative to Internet Explorer.

    I doubt ANYONE in their right mind could seriously say the Apple, Sun, or Netscape are going to dethrone Microsoft anytime soon. Do *NOT* discount Microsoft. They might be down on this one round, but they are by *NO* means out. Last time I checked, they are STILL the dominant desktop OS, with over 90% market share, and the prospects for a successful Vista launch seem to keep getting better all the time. From the looks of it, Win Vista, whether we like it or not, is very likely to wow many people, and help Microsoft reclaim whatever ground they have lost to Apple, Google, Linux, etc.

    I also warn you: Microsoft is clearing planning to move all of their MSN properties into Windows Live [live.com]. The next version of Hotmail will be called Windows Live Mail, in keeping with this. Their plan is to integrate Windows Live (formerly MSN) heavily with the Windows operating system, and to market it and position it as *THE* web portal, Web 2.0 widget center (upon which other web applications will be built), and THE gateway to the Internet. By integrating Windows Live into Windows and making it platform-dependent, Microsoft still has a trump card here that Google can only DREAM of having.

    Do NOT discount Microsoft--they are STILL a force to be reckoned with, they are STILL in a VERY strong position, and they are STILL very dangerous... Do NOT be lulled into a sense of complacency.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @03:38PM (#14422783) Homepage
    From the article:


    At the same time, Gates no longer cuts the profile he once did as a high-tech titan. While he's still respected, he's no longer scary--and the totemic company he built from scratch seems increasingly ordinary, even irrelevant


    What the article doesn't go into is why Gates and Microsoft are no longer seen as scary. It's because their products are no longer the only choice. It used to be that for many things, you had to deal with Microsoft, because all the stuff you wanted to do required Windows to run. That meant that you had to agree to whatever terms Microsoft cared to offer, and they could be pretty onerous (and expensive). These days, with the easy availability of open source alternatives and the shift to web-based services, people are no longer compelled to accept lousy deals from Microsoft. If they don't like what Microsoft has to offer, they are free to go with something else. That means that (a) Microsoft has to treat its customers better if it wants to keep selling product, and (b) customers no longer have to live in fear of doing something that would anger the giant in Redmond.


    So yes, Gates and Microsoft are no longer as scary as they used to be. But it's more because of the actions of Torvalds, Stallman, Jobs, and Berners-Lee than any change of heart by Gates.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @04:40PM (#14423091)
    Seriously. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of my life. Prior to getting married, the regional in-joke regarding any local charitable project was "Bill Gates declined to participate, because he was afraid it would be confused with actually caring about his home and neighbors" (see any number of 'Almost Live' reruns for verification). But after he got married, this seemed to gradually change.

    I, for one, am happy to see the Gates's speading their wealth around. Bill's motivation is more or less irrelevant to me - I'm just glad it's happening.
  • Intentions? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kuzb (724081) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:31PM (#14424051)
    It's really hard to tell what was motivating Bill Gates at any one point in time. Most would say that he was motivated by greed, while others might say that he was actually trying to make a difference. One might also say that he knew he couldn't make a difference unless he had the power to do so. In this case, a shitload of money. Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending his previous actions, but how many of us *really* know this man? Given the resources he has, would any of us have turned out differently?

    The problem here may fall in line with the old saying: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    As people get older, (and many young slashdotters won't understand this yet, but they will - eventually.) how they think, act, and see the world changes. Most of us are so bent on seeing Bill Gates as some kind of extreme demon that we fail to recognize that people are dynamic, and he's no exception. We don't stay the same, things influence us, change our minds, and cause us to act differently all the time. The change is typically gradual, but it does occur in everyone.

    Think about how you were 10 years ago - the things you thought about, how you acted. Compare it to how you are now. I'm sure most people will find that they are not the same people.

    I can't say if this is exactly what is happening to Gates, but it seems plausable enough to me.
  • by rben (542324) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @08:59PM (#14424177) Homepage
    Microsoft still has plenty of venom and clout. It's still a dangerous company to deal with and one that is exerting a damaging influence on our economy and the advancement of our technology in general.

    MS still takes every opportunity to attack open source software and open standards in general. Look, for instance, at the incredible attack that MS has launched, via it's pet columnists, at Mr. Quinn in Massecheusetts, who had the temerity to recommend that MA insist that the governement switch to software that used open document format, so that MS couldn't force the state to upgrade by changing file formats. Mr. Quinn has probably saved the MA taxpayers, like myself, untold amounts of money, and in return he's been attacked over and over in the press.

    MS is patenting everything it can think of, obvious or not, in an attempt to preempt competition. Even if the patents are eventually overturned, they can be used to threaten software and hardware developers, retarding the advancement of technology in all the areas MS is getting patents in.

    I think it's more likely that MS will become increasingly dangerous the more that Bill Gates retreats from management of the company. Ballmer has already shown that he is willing to do almost anything to increase the bottom line, legal or not.

    MS still needs to be split up. It is still a monopoly and still defies the courts in the U.S. and Europe by continuing it's monopolistic practices.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Sunday January 08, 2006 @10:19PM (#14424433) Homepage

    Gates' "Foundation" is a stock laundering scheme to allow him to control other corporations through the investments of the Foundation and to make him look good to offset his convicted monopolist status.

    If you look at the Federal philanthropy rules, the Foundation is required to spend at least 3% of its assets. It barely does. A couple years ago, when the Gates's were donating another $3 billion, it was around 1.18% IIRC and the article I read said they'd have to pump up the issuance to meet Fed regulations.

    If you look at those "huge" sums given to charity listed on their Web site, almost everything over one million dollars is usually handed out OVER MULTIPLE YEARS - sometimes over ten years or more - meaning the impact on the Foundation's income is negligible.

    Do the math - they have nearly $30 billion in assets, and they hand out maybe a billion a year. Do you think with those assets, they can't get at least ten percent return on their investments?

    That's THREE BILLION more bucks under Gates control PER YEAR. And he hands out less than half.

    Obviously the people who DO get money from the Foundation are benefiting, and presumably that's a good thing for them - but it's not done because Gates is a fucking philanthropist.

    It's a stock-laundering and PR scheme - nothing more. Anybody who believes differently is a moron.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Sunday January 08, 2006 @11:10PM (#14424632) Homepage
    The problem with ill-gotten gains is that it's a negative-sum game -- for whatever Microsoft gained, everyone else lost incomparably more.

    Gates and Microsoft are responsible for poisoning software development, creating a culture of a complete disregard of quality, turning intellectual pursuit into mindless race for features, destruction of countless good projects, technologies and ideas, turning software development industry into a mix of a Microsoft fan club and a slaughterhouse, and nearly complete destruction of all research that is in any way related to computer science. This will take decades to reverse -- likely our grandkids will still suffer from consequences of this.

    If Microsoft declared Windows to be free, and refunded all its customers, this damage would be still done -- and it's not like Gates has that much money on hand. So there is absolutely nothing Gates can do to go into the history as something other than a bloodthirsty monopolist, and a man who caused a massive noosphere pollution -- what is worse than John D. Rockefeller who is also the first but at least not the second.

    No one but some panderers to the rich consider Rockefeller to be anything but an evil man who caused massive amount of misery, and the same will apply to Gates. How much of their shitty money will be paid for whatever causes, is irrelevant because the damage done is beyond anyone's capabilities to repair it, even if some of that money went into such repair.

"The only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down." -- H.L. Mencken

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