Bill Gates won't seek Microsoft comeback - too busy trying to be top dog philanthropist

Summary:He doesn't like philanthropic competition – he's very critical of other do-gooders.

Bill Gates told the Financial Times’ West Coast Editor Richard Waters that he won’t be coming back to Microsoft as CEO:

An exclusive interview with Bill Gates - FT.com

Gates fends off questions about Microsoft, though he says — contrary to persistent speculation — that he is not about to step back in to run it as Steve Jobs once returned to revive Apple. He also admits that the company is taking up a much bigger slice of his time than the one day a week to which he signed up after he left. 

As chairman and a member of the committee searching for a replacement to Steve Ballmer as chief executive, Gates says he still holds regular meetings with some of the company’s product groups and that he expects to spend considerable time working with the next boss after an appointment is made.

Gates used much of the interview to criticize other philanthropists.  For example, he’s not liking what Mark Zuckerberg is doing with his initiative to bring Internet connectivity to the rest of the world. “It’s a joke,” he said.

Creating a vaccine against malaria is more important. He also doesn’t like:

- Building hospitals. 

He questions why anyone would donate money to build a new wing for a museum rather than spend it on preventing illnesses that can lead to blindness. 

- Don’t try to change the world by creating a new industry such as was done by Peter Diamandis, the X Prize founder.

“Industries are only valuable to the degree they meet human needs. There’s not some – at least in my psyche – this notion of, oh, we need new industries. We need children not to die, we need people to have an opportunity to get a good education.”

- He doesn’t like the way existing organizations have been fighting polio for years such as Rotary International.

"It probably would have been better to just give up than do business as usual. But that would have been horrific.”

- He doesn’t much like the chaotic world of charities, NGOs, and government agencies.

“The fact that people don’t understand numbers and systems thinking and science and logic, that’s OK,” Gates says – though his famous impatience might belie such a claim.

- He’s not a fan of the democratic process.

“The idea that all these people are going to vote and have an opinion about subjects that are increasingly complex – where what seems, you might think … the easy answer [is] not the real answer.”

- He says he’s working on his intense criticisms of others, such as after a meeting with his own staff at the foundation. 

“I said to Melinda, was I too tough on that, who should I send mail to, was that motivational, de-motivational? It’s all a matter of degree.”

Foremski’s Take: Bill Gates sounds like a nightmare to work with and with all that money — the billions he made while running Microsoft as an illegal monopoly — he must be even more insufferable knowing he has such power of life and death in so many countries. [By the way, he calls it “my own money” even though the foundation has billions from Warren Buffett.]

Why is he so critical of other philanthropic projects such as Zuckerberg’s?

We live in an “and” world — there’s plenty of room for many good works. Why not malaria vaccines and a connected world? Clearly, in Gates’ mind there’s a do-gooder hierarchy in philanthropy and his is the best.  

His attacks on other philanthropists show up his vanity and his attitude that it is a competition and that others are doing it all wrong. 

While he won’t do with Microsoft what Steve Jobs did in rescuing Apple, he does have something in common with the Apple co-founder: a horrid bullying personality. 

 

 

Topics: Microsoft

About

In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to make a living as a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leadi... Full Bio

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