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

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.

TOPICS: Microsoft

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 -

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. 



Topic: Microsoft

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  • A bully? Sure, why not.

    But does that make him any less wrong?

    What he says is his opinion, and nothing more.

    Why are you being so critical on him?

    - Malaria Vaccine > Internet in Africa. This is obvious.
    - Yes, a Malaria Vaccine IS much more important than building a museum wing. I can't find any mention of a hospital.
    - He's a philanthropist. OF COURSE he'll argue that philanthropy is important.
    - He says it probably would've been better to give up. But then he says it would've been terrible. HE'S SIDING WITH CHARITIES THIS TIME, not against them.
    - It is chaotic and confusing. We have fragmented groups and charities everywhere. He isn't wrong about this.
    - He isn't criticizing the democratic process. He's saying that many people who vote don't completely understand their overall impact.

    Several of your claims seem near-sighted, and present some factual errors.

    If I told a girl that she's grown, she may guess that I'm talking about her weight, her height, or her... special size.

    You're thinking of your weight when he's actually talking about your cup size.
    • Foremski is a J**k

      I'd like to know what Philanthropic work Foremski has done. Because unless he has some oar in the water he comes off to me as an unmitigated jerk.
  • Actually...

    ...I agree with most of what Mr. Gates says here. He may be vain (would be hard for him not to be) and may be a bully (his previous conduct as founder and longtime head of MS would suggest that he's at least ruthless), but that's not evident from the quotes provided.

    And despite the headline, nothing said in this article indicates that he hates competition (though it is evident from his career at MS).

    I think Tom is over-interpreting.
    John L. Ries
  • Zuckerberg wants more Facebook users. No more, no less. It's called growth.

    As for Bill Gates, he can spend his (and, apparently, Warren Buffet's) money any way he wishes. Whatever ...

    Fortunately, other individuals and organizations are free to pursue their own objectives independently of Mr. Gates' opinion.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • I can see both your opinions.

      It's their money they can do with it as they see fit. I also believe that Museum wings or such are important as what good is life if you don't get to appreciate it? If some life saving drug allowed me the opportunity to get a few more years of life, I'd like the chance to enjoy that time. You don't get that if everyone spends money looking to extend life, forgetting the world around them.

      I do understand his opinion though, as with all this personal money they have, and the good fortune to have obtained it, will it really break their bank if they use some of it to help their fellow man? How many mega mansions, jet planes, fast cars and mega parties does someone really need? Is connecting the world for those that can afford it really more important than saving the life of someone who can't afford the drug that would save them?
  • That is quite a spin job ...

    But then again anyone's actions can be spun to make them out to be a monster. E.g. how Forermski equates Gate's foundation spearheading the task of saving millions of lives, to companies providing Internet connection to the poor in hopes of expanding their business, is beyond me.
    P. Douglas
  • like any other

    Gates has just become like anyone else who had taken themselves far too serious.... Sadly, he is spending all this money, worldwide, on many "projects" whose primary objective is to keep others away from working in certain area.
    Luckily, spending money this way has never worked, as there are creative people who can achieve much with almost no funding.

    I expect Gates will become even more nervous as he begins to realize his life is approaching the inevitable end. Curious what the development will be then --- people's true colors reveal only at such times.

    But yes, even Gates sees no way to save Microsoft -- or he could have returned on the white horse already.
    • You spin...

      about as well as the author. Except I can't tell which one of you is dumber.
    • Nice try at the spin danbi.

      What sad is to see how nervous you have become, spinning everything MS related, to the point that I wonder what is really at play here - are you the paid shill as you come off to many, or have you finally hit that point where desperation forces you to spin everything, no matter how ridiculous or envious it sounds? Is your life so insignificant that spinning stories out of jealousy is all you have left?

      You speak of true colors, and we have seen yours, and it's quite telling, but not in a positive way for you that you've lead yourself to believe, which is the saddest thing of all, as the only one you have fooled, is yourself.
      • Re: spinning everything MS related

        Does it ever occur to you William, that you might be wrong? How do you suppress such ideas?

        Some of us are "blessed" (*) to have observed, first hand Mr Gates' and similar "philanthropist" types actions. The hype is one thing, the reality another.

        But then, it is not the fault of those who eat the cake, but those who give it to them.

        (*) I would very much prefer to live the ignorant life you seem to enjoy too much, as these observations sometimes are *too* ugly even for me.
    • Don't think so

      I think it's plain that he really doesn't want the job. Otherwise, he could have taken it back any time in the last 13 years (2007 would have been a very appropriate year for Steve Ballmer to have stepped down). He could have it right now, but it appears that he genuinely thinks his charitable work is more important (or perhaps he doesn't want to annoy Mrs. Gates).

      In a way, it's too bad because I've long thought that only Bill Gates has the stature to move MS away from the stupid monopoly games it's been playing for the last 25 years or so, and truly focus on selling software, rather than compatibility. But as chairman, he has the clout to do that behind the scenes, if he is so minded.
      John L. Ries
      • Bill Gates' Philanthropy

        Just a few comments. First, it's funny to talk about Gates rescuing MS from the "stupid monopoly games" when it was Gates who invented or, at least, perfected them. Second, this may sound heartless, but what good does it do to save the lives of 'X' numbers of children if all they're going to do is have even more children in need of saving.

        The fundamental problems will not be changed by finding a widespread cure for malaria. Africa, despite sitting on a huge pile of natural and human resources, is mired in millenia-old systems of tribal allegiances in the 21st century. While the continent has apparently limitless funds for weapons and ammunition (and no shortage of countries willing to sell them), it seems nobody has the intellectual wherewithal to dig wells for clean drinking water, a skill which was perfected elsewhere in the world several thousands of years ago.

        Apparently, even the poorest, most uneducated Africans have given up hope, as evidenced by the numbers who have died of thirst or drowned (get the irony?) while trying to flee to Europe. The more aid money that gets pumped into failed states (or even failed continents), the less internal pressure will be exerted on those who are really to blame for the current state of affairs.

        I think philanthropists would be better off supporting meaningful arms embargos, educational opportunities (especially for females), and political reform. By the latter, I don't mean forcing western-style democracy down the throats of people who wonder where their next meal's coming from - I mean the imposition of significant consequences for leaders who abuse their own people for personal gain.

        Finally, while I respect Gates' and Buffet's altruism with regard to Africa, perhaps they should turn their attention to their own country, which has the highest level of child poverty among the so-called advanced nations.
        • Re: supporting meaningful arms embargos

          How could they, when the very source of their wealth comes from such .. articles.

          If the likes of Gates would like to "help" Africa, the best way to do that would be to shield it from the western "civilization" and let those people live their lives. This can't happen, again, because this is precisely the opposite of what "rich philanthropists want".

          These people are "poor", because they are forced into that situation, not because they care about western culture "wealth" or such. Of course, none of this will happen --- there are so many natural and human resources in Africa and nobody is going to leave them alone.

          Sadly, what I see coming is a new war :(
          • Red Card

            "When the source of their wealth comes from such .. articles."

            You're now claiming that Gates and other philanthropists obtained their wealth from weapons and munitions sales? And are now returning some of that money to these countries, in the form of health and human services aid, in order to propagate the continuation of war or foment new ones?

            Citation/proof? A new low for you, danbi. You claim to know Mr. Gates, and that you have intimate knowledge of his mind set. One has to wonder if he knows you? I suspect not. Attending a conference or presentation in which he spoke doesn't constitute a "meeting".

            What's really sad is that you feel the need to slander good works in the name of your personal technology biases.
        • He was the architect

          But if anyone else tries to abandon the monopoly games, he's likely to face a shareholder revolt (shareholders are usually reluctant to abandon "what works" even if it's not working anymore). Unfortunately, Gates doesn't seem to have much interest in doing so; otherwise, I don't think the board would have given Ballmer the go-ahead for the patent trolling strategy, and that Gates would have quickly nixed the largely ineffective "War on Google".

          Pity. I think a reformed MS would be in the best interest of stockholders, employees, customers, and the general public alike.
          John L. Ries
      • Re: he doesn't want to annoy Mrs. Gates

        This pretty much nails it.

        Having met them both, I would make that assumption, without knowing those are Mr and Ms Gates. ;-)
  • Harmful, Irresponsible, Misleading

    Foremski, I suppose your job requires the publication of pieces like this. Forego reporting, fail to inform - in fact misinform - but throw some bombs, eh?

    The FT piece you reacted to isn't a transcript so I'm unsure how you know Gates "used much of the interview to criticize other philanthropists". Perhaps it is because FT featured those comments prominently. How surprising.

    Yet Gates seems to have been asked by FT to COMPARE his foundation's anti-disease efforts with 1) provision of internet to the world's unconnected, and 2) creation of new industries. In both instances Gates stated he believes life and wellness are higher human priorities.

    Foremski's Take: Gates thinks he's better than everyone!!

    I agree with Gates. Malaria killed an estimated 660,000 people in 2010 and sickened 219 million ( Polio continues to discomfort, cripple and maim people.

    The FT states the polio campaign may be seen as "ego philanthropy". They also question whether Gates' drive to eradicate polio may be less valuable in terms of lives saved than other health efforts. While it isn't possible to disprove such speculation, I offer a couple of observations.

    First, Melinda Gates has an aunt disabled by polio so the fight against the disease is personal for their family. Second, at the turn of the millennium when the Gates Foundation joined the polio campaign enormous progress had been made against the disease. The annual infection rate had fallen from 350,000 in 1988 to only 6,000 in 1999. Perhaps if it were operating in 1988 the Gates Foundation may have chosen causes other than polio eradication, but the state of the fight against polio in 1999 may have made committing money to that fight - and perhaps hedging against loss of containment and a "do-over" of the fight in the future - more important than spending the money in other ways which saved more lives.

    This thinking is confirmed by Gates comments about that time. He believes if the polio campaign had continued on its "business as usual" course - devoting inadequate resources in perpetuity - then it would be "better" (or a higher good if you will) to devote those resources to other, more life saving causes. But the resulting suffering of the de-funded polio victims "would have been horrific".

    Foremski's Take: Gates is against Rotary!!

    Gates shows a similar logical, strategic thought process in his comments on, as you put it Foremski, "charities, NGOs and government agencies". Gates specifically states it is okay if only half of the involved individuals in an undertaking speak his technocratic language.

    Foremski's Take: Gates sneers at earnest public servants!!

    Gates states many government representatives are out of touch with the facts and mechanics of government operations. Maybe they aren't very good at their jobs or ideally suited for them. He also questions whether the majority of voters will be well-informed about complex issues.

    Foremski's Take: Gates against democracy!!

    In addition to their global health initiatives the Gates Foundation also undertakes work focused on development, including financial services for the poor, agriculture, water, hygiene and sanitation, and educational and technology programs in the US. They sponsor technology development competitions a la' the outspoken Peter Diamandis. But the technologies are less glamorous - better toilets, condoms and TB tests instead of moonshots.

    Foremski's Take: Gates thinks he's all that!!

    My Take: Foremski is a hack and a discredit to his name.

    John Garrett
    • Your comment...

      is agreed with by EVERY single reader of this "article". Except the usual douches that troll every MS article (danbi). I've read some of his other comments... let's just say he's not the brightest bulb on the tree (putting it mildly).
    • This is one of those rare times

      when ZDNet moderators should come around and take the article, and leave the comments! By far the most odious and offensive article I've ever seen on this site!
      • Indeed.

        "Pathetic" is the word that immediately comes to mind... though I'm not sure if it's more applicable to Formski or his article.
        Hallowed are the Ori