Playing The Game

One of the biggest big business questions of our time revolves around how far Bill Gates' run of success will go. (For those of you who have been in hibernation for the last 10 years, Bill Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world.

Columns From: 9/1/1997 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Chris Koepfer

One of the biggest big business questions of our time revolves around how far Bill Gates' run of success will go. (For those of you who have been in hibernation for the last 10 years, Bill Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft and one of the richest people in the world.) The question has legitimacy because at this point in time our entire planet pretty much deals with Bill and his ubiquitous Microsoft operating systems for its personal computers. It's also likely that file servers and intra-office networking will have "Bill inside" as well, when the proliferation of Windows NT hits critical mass. What many observers-in private business and the public entities that watch over business-want to know is what happens when Mr. Gates gets to the point where he has most or all of the marbles. Will he morph into a Carnegie, Rockefeller, or Morgan-like big business robber baron? Will he hold the world ransom seeking more billions to add to his billions? Or will he be a benefactor, philanthropist, doer of large good deeds?

I find it interesting that so many people seem concerned with Bill Gates' success. My feeling is he has played the game and won it. Now many of the players who have been out-maneuvered are whining about Microsoft being a danger and Bill Gates being a giant ego with maniacal tendencies.

Bill Gates is gamesman. When previous reining computer champ Apple decided on proprietary everything, Microsoft took the opposite tack, making its software available to any and every IBM clone on earth. Prices for these clones were much less than Apple and while admittedly Apple had a better operating system, people couldn't see it was that much better.

Many wags say that Microsoft products are inferior to others such as Apple or Unix-based boxes. They argue that we consumers are being denied the best technology. That may be true. However, it's naive to believe that the best technology will, because it's best, win out over all comers. What 's often more important in a market driven economy is not the best technology but rather the right technology. Was the Model T a better car than Pierce Arrow? No, but the Model T was the right car for the market. That's the point, of course.

There is a good chance that Microsoft will be bested some day. That's the natural course of business. But, for the moment, I continue to admire how well Bill Gates plays the game, uses the rules and with some luck, continues to succeed.

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