BillG sings blues over open standards, becoming obsolete, Winblad says

Venture capitalist Ann Winblad said open source and open standards has made life tough for Microsoft’s co-founder and other kingpins that used to rule the software industry.“The beauty of the software industry today is that not one, two or three companies that control the agenda.

Venture capitalist Ann Winblad said open source and open standards has made life tough for Microsoft’s co-founder and other kingpins that used to rule the software industry.

“The beauty of the software industry today is that not one, two or three companies that control the agenda. This is hard for the incumbents to deal with,” said Winblad, when asked by MIT Technology Review editor Jason Pontin at MIT Emerging Technologies Conference Thursday why her friend Bill Gates claims to back open standards but can’t bring himself to support them in his products.

“It used to be that there was a platform shift every X number of years but now we’re way beyond that. There are so many disruptions to deal with – SOA, open source, software-as-a-service,” said Winblad, co-founder and principal at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, a well known VC firm in San Francisco.

“It’s hard for larger companies to make changes … and deal with how pricing has changed, how software is delivered and how customers [not companies] are driving demand," she said.

Winblad carefully avoided commenting on BillG’s reluctance to embrace open standards but hinted that the company’s position will likely not change for some time to come. “It will be a while before we see [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer on stage extolling the benefits of open standards,” she told hundreds gathered at the Krege Auditorium for her keynote about venture funding for software companies.

Bill Gates’ worries about the future computing landscape are far more visionary and humane, Winblad implied.

“20 years ago I asked Bill what is the thing he feared most," Winblad recalled, "and he said it was that 'We’d live to be 100 and we’ll be carbon-based pets” of machines with artificial intelligence.

“There will be no need for us,” she recalled Gates saying.

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