So His Billness is set to retire this summer, stepping down from that small software company outside of Seattle that he began at about the same time that I was starting my own humble career in IT. We both are about the same age (well, he is a bit younger) and have three kids (and they are a lot younger than mine). While I am not ready to retire (my own funds are shall we say a bit more modest), it is interesting to see how my own career has tracked Gates’. And I just wanted to say, thanks Bill. Thanks for making my career so interesting and exciting: if Microsoft (and others, I don’t want to just blame them) had made better products, I probably would have less to write about as a tech journalist and fewer support issues when I was on the front lines toiling in the Information Centers of yore.
Lately, I say thanks Bill for Vista: if you had stuck with XP, we would be bored writing about it by now and using it wouldn’t be as challenging. Vista has given us full employment for IT people for years to come as we track down those drivers, buy more RAM, and mess with Aero. And thanks for all the fun with Yahoo over the past couple of months, too. That has been very entertaining; even it is mostly watching Ballmer doing another one of his famous hyper-kinetic dances. He learned from the master, to be sure.
I wanted to especially thank Bill for publicly cursing me out for some of the op/ed pieces that I wrote for Network Computing: there was this scene in one of those posh Palm Springs hotels where I met him randomly in the lobby, and asked innocently what he thought of my articles. (I guess this is around 1991.) For what seemed like eternity but was just a few minutes, he proceeded to use most of George Carlin’s famous seven words and told me exactly how little he valued my ideas, writing style, publication, and I think ancestry and family background too (memory is a bit faint on these last couple of points). Why thank him? Well, it gave me my requisite story to tell people about my own Gates Encounter. There were other times where I interviewed him, back in those early days when he only had a couple of Wagged hall monitors nearby, and they were interesting, but not as good stories.
I also wanted to also thank Bill for killing off a bunch of products that we are all better off not having around us anymore: things like Microsoft Bob, OS/2, Netware, DOS, Windows ME, Lotus 1-2-3, Word Perfect, and Web TV. But not NT: they can’t seem to kill that sucker no matter how hard they try. And speaking of NT, thanks Bill for producing such an insecure OS that helped generate of one of my favorite PC Week cover stories back in the late 1980s: we wrote about how anyone could take over a server with a simple boot floppy and physical access to the machine. Ah, those were the days! Remember floppies? Thanks for making software so big they now only fit on DVDs! Forget about floppies! Too bad we can’t forget about Hotmail, Active X and MSN, they have generated lots of extra hours of support for me over the years, and all deserve to be retired now.
And how can you not appreciate all the work that Microsoft has done to introduce such great phrases into the IT lexicon, things like “fear, uncertainty and doubt,” which is what they say before they actually write one line of code, or “we are on a product death march” when they are close to releasing their first beta, or “our software is now code complete,” which is what they say when they are on their second beta, or “our software is now released to manufacturing,” which is what they say when they first take money from paying customers. Who could forget such phrases as “cut off Netscape’s air supply” during the monopoly trials of the 1990s: now Netscape is just a quivering mass of open source jello somewhere inside the Googleplex, and Microsoft is still a monopolist, but the world is supposedly better off.
Speaking of lawsuits and monopolies, if you are a lawyer, you probably have your own special series of thank yous to Bill. Microsoft has been great at feeding you over the years, to the tune of some $9 billion. At one time, the company had 130 different active suits underway, with companies such as AT&T, IBM, the state of Montana, and Sun. Indeed, Sun has its own special thanks, it got a bunch of cash from Microsoft for its troubles, and all those times that Scott McNealy called Windows a hairball of an operating system and used Microsoft’s foibles to amuse his audiences, too.
So let’s all thank Bill on all his years of service and congratulate him on his upcoming retirement. He has served us all well and made our industry entertaining, fun, and even profitable for some. This column is taken from a series of (hopefully humorous) keynote speeches that I will be doing this month as my own personal tribute. If you want to hire me to continue the celebration and come speak at your organization, let me know.