Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Gates hasn't gone soft, he's gone heroic!

What a disappointment to read New York Magazine's John Heilemann on Bill Gates and what he sees as a softening of Gates that has led to a weakening of Microsoft.

Like most tech oriented folks I've never been a big MS fan, but ever since hearing Gates on Charlie Rose discuss development with a passion he used to reserve for monopolizing the PC industry I've been a huge fan of his and was thrilled to see the media attention, albeit very BRIEF media attention, following the Time award.

Rather than laud him for shifting his generally brilliant focus from software to world health, Heilemann focuses very narrowly on what he sees as the demise of Microsoft.

It's a dubious premise at best (watch their unique Neural Network search triumph in about 1- 2 years as a fantastic tool), but even if it's true that Microsoft is dying the challenges are not related to Gates philanthropy or even Gates himself as much as they are the result of the tidal waves of online innovation and change sweeping away old business structures and new and old companies alike.

I expect more from elite magazines, but like most in our sad and superficial corporate media New York Magazine fiddles while the developed world burns, and like mainstream TV media focuses more on a notable's celebrity while the celebrity, in this case Gates, heroically tackles real and pressing global problems with unprecedented success.

Shame on Heilemann, shame on New York Magazine, and Bravo to Bill Gates.

UPDATE: John Heilemann very courteously replied to my rant at length in the following email in which he also had to correct my mistake calling NEW YORK MAGAZINE the "NEW YORKER".

> On 1/10/06, John Heilemann wrote:

joe --

sorry you were disappointed, but at least you can let the New Yorker off the hook -- i'm a columnist for New York Magazine, an entirely different publication.

i wrote a book about the microsoft antitrust trial, so i have some views about the company, its past behavior, and future prospects.
maybe we can just agree to disagree on some points there.

but while it's true that i didn't devote the bulk of my column to
praising gates for his philanthropic work -- a point of view i
considered pretty fully covered by Time's Person of the Year cover
story -- it's not like i didn't acknowledge the point:

"By all accounts, Gates has emerged as the most influential philanthropist on the planet; with a $29 billion endowment this foundation is setting new standards for both generosity and rigor in tackling an assortment of the world's most dire maladies, from malaria to HIV."

"Gates's consolation is that his opportunity to be a transformational
figure isn't lost with Microsoft's abeyance. This is not a trivial thing. Gates has already changed the world once; now, through his foundation—which is not only disgorging a gusher of funds but inventing a new model for philanthropy, driven by statistics, leverage, and an insistence on accountability—he has a chance to do it again. And as Bono told Time, "The second act for Bill Gates may be the one that history regards more."

sorry if this is insufficient -- but please don't accuse me of
ignoring the good that gates is doing with his charitable endeavors.


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