Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 17/4/2005Aren't four day weekends wonderful? Like the Three Day Week, but the lights stay on.

Monday 17/4/2005

Aren't four day weekends wonderful? Like the Three Day Week, but the lights stay on.

Tuesday 18/4/2005

Meanwhile over in Seattle, Chinese premier Hu Jintao is popping in to see Bill Gates – his first official engagement on the state visit. You can read about the significance of this everywhere: Bill has agreed to cut the price of Windows and Hu has agreed to make sure his subjects pay up, and everyone is very pally indeed.

How things change. Three years ago, Microsoft was having no end of trouble in the Middle Kingdom: a string of local CEOs had resigned, in some cases cashing in on the experience by writing books exposing how the company was behaving like an arrogant imperalist. Telling people this is a bit like Kurt Cobain persuading teenagers that they're miserable — not a hard sell — but MS did seem intent on making the story particularly convincing. Now, it seems, Microsoft can do no wrong. I certainly wouldn't put any money on them being hauled up for abuse of monopoly.

Yet curiously, Bill Gates himself has long had heroic status among the Chinese youth. A survey back in March 2002 and reported in the South China Morning Post asked 1600 teenagers in Hong Kong and mainland China who they idolised most. Top of the list in China was former Premier Zhou Enlai – who's seen as a key figure in the downfall of the Gang of Four. Number three was Mao Zedong, whose meaning to the Chinese I confess I find increasingly enigmatic. But at number two? William H Gates III. He clocked in ahead of Deng Xiaoping, Albert Einstein and 'my parents'.

Admit it, You're already having visions of those Chinese revolutionary posters, with the shining, serene visage of Bill gazing into the middle distance while clutching a tablet PC. Or perhaps a UMPC — which incidentally excelled itself at Samsung's launch of the Q1 this week. In front of horrified executives, the CEO failed completely to persuade the device to show a PowerPoint presentation before the battery ran out (time alive — around five minutes); a backup model went to the other extreme and riffled through the presentation in about five seconds despite all attempts to stop it. If sales get into three figures, I'll be astonished.

Still, such failures will not happen now that Bill is officially one of the revolutionary pantheon. Wonder if he'll want to reunite Linux...