Hero: A man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage (source: Merriam-Webster dictionary)
I have a picture of Bill Gates in my office along with a few other people I admire. I’ve been asked why I have Bill Gates’ picture, but not Steve Jobs’. The reason is that Bill Gates is a hero. A silent hero.
His vision during Microsoft’s earliest days was to “put a computer on every desk and in every home”. In 1970s, nobody had thought of having a computer at home. Computers were the sole preserve of big companies that had IBM’s mainframe computers for data processing tasks. He wanted the magic of software developed by Microsoft to work on hardware developed by other companies. Apple, at around the same time, had a similar vision but wanted to control the entire user experience from software to hardware. Microsoft, and Bill Gates, won big time.
Success is one’s own worst enemy. Having realized his vision by all means, including some alleged monopolistic practices, and becoming the richest man in the world, I think he lost his way. He focused more on making money for himself and Microsoft’s investors than creating value for the users. And when you try to harvest more value than you create, things start to fall apart. Gates didn’t focus on design and user experience. He didn’t focus on innovation. Perhaps he didn’t read The Innovator’s Dilemma. Though Microsoft is doing just fine, Apple now rules the world.
Rivalry with Steve Jobs
They were about the same age, started their companies at the same time (1975), and had the same vision. Gates was a software genius and Jobs was a design genius. They were competitors, borrowed ideas for GUI from Xerox PARC, and worked fanatically to establish their companies. In Jobs’s biography by Walter Isaacson, he quotes Jobs: “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
This statement is not true. Gates invented countless software for consumers and enterprise (much more than Apple) but also copied some. Same is true of Jobs. In fact, Gates is much more imaginative than Jobs. Gates imagined a world free of diseases such as malaria, polio, and AIDS, and a literate, innovative, and competitive America.
Philanthropy: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
In 2000, Bill Gates quit his job at Microsoft and is now devoting his full time to the Gates Foundation traveling to poor countries, meeting with people, and understanding the health issues prevalent there. He has committed his wealth to the foundation and also convinced his rich friends like Warren Buffet to donate most of their wealth to charity. He is working with non-profit organizations to get rid of preventable diseases and improve the health of people in developing countries.
Steve Jobs wanted to put a ding in the universe, but it is, in fact, Bill Gates who did it and still doing it. While Jobs was busy inventing beautiful gadgets, Gates first changed the world with personal computers, and now changing it again with his fight against deadly diseases in the developing world and his mission to fix the broken education system in America.
Bill Gates’ courage to fight the biggest challenges and his commitment to noble causes make him a true hero.
– A Conversation With Bill Gates About the Future of Higher Education
– Bill Gates on Charlie Rose
– Malcolm Gladwell: In 50 years, Bill Gates will be revered and Steve Jobs will be forgotten
– The Real Reason The World Will Remember Bill Gates