The Bill Gates Interview
A candid conversation with the sultan of software about outsmarting his rivals
"The Wallet PC is a futuristic device. Instead of having tickets to the theater, your Wallet PC will digitally prove that you paid. It's our vision of the small, portable PC of, say, five years from now."
"If we weren't still hiring great people and pushing ahead, it would be easy to fall behind and become a mediocre company. Fear should guide you, but it should be latent. I consider failure on a regular basis."
"We bet the company on Windows and we deserve to benefit. It was a risk that's paid off immensely. In retrospect, committing to the graphics interface seems so obvious that now it's hard to keep a straight face."
A youngish man who looks like a graduate student sits on the door of his unpretentious dormlike room, spooning Thai noodles from a plastic container. His glasses are smudged, his clothes are wrinkled, his hair is tousled like a boy's. But, when he talks, people listen. Certainly no person on the campus can talk about the future, as he does, with the riveting authority of someone who not only knows what's in store for tomorrow but is a major force in shaping that future as well.Yet this is an office, not a dorm room. And, while everyone calls the complex of 25 buildings a campus, it's not a college or university. It's the sprawling Microsoft headquarters in
Microsoft's wealth and power just grow and grow, asserts Fortune magazine. CEO Bill Gates could buy out an entire years production of his 99 nearest competitors, burn it, and still be worth more than Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner. Microsoft's $25 billion market value tops that of Ford, General Motors, 3M, Boeing, RJR Nabisco, General Mills, Anheuser-Busch or Eastman Kodak.
With size comes power. Microsoft dominates the PC market with its MS-DOS operating system, the basic software that lets the computer understand your commands and carry them out. MS-DOS runs on 90 percent of the worlds IBM and IBM-clone computers. Microsoft has extended that presence with Windows, a graphics interface environment that runs on top of MS-DOS and will, according to Gates, replace DOS in future versions. Microsoft also supplies about 50 percent of the worlds software applications: programs such as Excel (spreadsheets), Microsoft Word (word processing) and Access (data bases). It is also in the business of networking. And multimedia. And CD-ROMs. And books. And as an early supporter of the Macintosh computer, Microsoft virtually owns the Mac application market.
The future looks equally promising. Gates recently announced that Microsoft and McCaw Cellular Communications will form a joint 840-satellite global communications network. At the same time, Gates also acknowledged that he was in high-level negotiations with AT&T about a series of ventures that could include interactive television, on-line computer services and software. This is in addition to a previously announced joint venture with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, the worlds second-largest phone company, and with cable giant John Malone and his Tele-Communications, Inc. aimed at launching a digital cable TV network for computer users. Viewers would be able to interact with programs, download software and shop for products and services. Other partnerships loom as well, including ones with publishing companies and