Bill Gates is back in the news after his long-time friend Steve Ballmer announced his retirement.
The reasons for Ballmer’s retirement remain fuzzy, but there are indications that Ballmer and Gates thought it was time for Ballmer to move on.
A lot of people are calling for Gates to replace Ballmer as CEO. He founded Microsoft, and led it in the 1980s and ’90s, creating a personal computing monopoly with Windows.
He’s unlikely to return as CEO. While he remains chairman at Microsoft, he left the company in 2008 to focus on his foundation, which is doing good around the world.
In appreciation of Gates, here’s a look back at his life.
Gates read every word of the encyclopedia growing up. His parents would pay for any book he would read. At age 11, he really 'blossomed intellectually' and developed into a bit of a pain for his parents, according to a WSJ profile of the family.
'Lakeside was one of the best things that ever happened to me,' says Bill Gates. Lakeside had computers, and Gates and his friend Paul Allen played with the computers. 'The experience and insight Paul Allen and I gained (at Lakeside) gave us the confidence to start a company based on this wild idea that nobody else agreed with -- that computer chips were going to become so powerful that computers and software would become a tool that would be on every desk and in every home.'
Allen and Gates built a version of BASIC for the MITS Altair, the first personal computer. BASIC was a programming language. MITS, or Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, was based in Albuquerque, N.M., so Microsoft started there. They moved the company to Washington in 1979. Allen would leave Microsoft in 1982 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was treated, but he never re-joined the company in a full-time way.
Ballmer was the first professional manager at the company. Gates lured him to Microsoft with a big chunk of equity.
Microsoft bought an operating system called Q-DOS from a Seattle technology company, then sold that operating system to IBM. The operating system became MS-DOS, and it quickly turned into the dominant PC operating system.
It's hard to pin down the first time Bill Gates met Steve Jobs. However, according to Walter Isaacson's book 'Steve Jobs,' by the late '70s, Microsoft was making most of its money on software for Apple computers. When Jobs was developing the first Macintosh, he went to Seattle to convince Gates to develop software for the Mac. For the next few years, they had a pretty good relationship.
Windows was a graphical user interface, much like what Apple was doing with the Macintosh. Jobs went crazy when he found out. 'You're ripping us off!' Jobs reportedly shouted at Gates, adding, 'I trusted you and now you're stealing from us!' Gates mostly shrugged it off, saying Apple stole from Xerox, so it was OK for Microsoft to steal from Apple.
At this point, Microsoft was doing $US14o million in annual sales.
From 1986 to 1996, Microsoft's stock increased in value by a hundredfold. The New York Times estimates it created over 10,000 millionaires. It led to Gates becoming the richest man in the world.
In 1990, Microsoft released Office and Windows 3.0. Both went on to dominate the industry.
They're still married and have three children. Melinda co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which is giving away the bulk of the Gates fortune.
You can read his full memo here. Gates said, 'The Internet is the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981.' He was right, but in time it would end Microsoft's dominance in technology.
Microsoft released Windows 95 (in 1995). It thrust Microsoft into the mainstream and pushed the company to its peak.
Gates built a massive house for himself in the 1990s. The taxes alone on the house are ~$1 million a year.
This kept Apple alive. Bill Gates announced the investment over a giant screen at Macworld, and was booed.
He got a bad rep because of the DOJ's case against Microsoft. Microsoft was seen as a bully. Gates wanted to snuff out the competition. He wasn't exactly beloved.
He stopped being Microsoft's CEO in 2000. He became Chief Software Architect, and made Ballmer the CEO. He also established his foundation.
At some point, perhaps in 2002, he joined Augusta National, the secretive, elite golf club that hosts the Masters. (He really wanted to join the club for years.)
In 2004, he joined the board of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company run by his friend Warren Buffet.
Don't let this mislead you, though. He's still involved with the company. It is his company, after all.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been doing a lot! It's eradicating polio, reducing cases of malaria, trying to engineer a better banana, find a better toilet, fighting HIV, and much, much more.
Gates' days as an aggressive monopolist are in the past. He's seen as a force for good in the world.
More of the same. He'll have to help pick a new CEO for Microsoft. And he'll continue to work on his foundation.