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The Hi-tech oppurtunist

bill gates, microsoft, IT, windows

If we are talking creativity and ideas, Bill Gates is an American unoriginal. He is Microsoft's chief and co-founder, he is the world's richest man, and his career delivers this message: It can be wiser to follow than to lead. Yet, at another level he also emphasizes the old proverb that whatever may be the belongings of a carelessman, it shall be duly coveted by a shameless man. Let the innovators hit the beaches and take the losses; if you hold back and follow, you can clean up in peace and quiet.

Gates is the Bing Crosby and avicenna of American technology, borrowing a tune here and a tune there and turning them all into great boffo hits — by dint of heroic feats of repackaging and sheer herculean blandness. Granted he is (to put it delicately) an unusually hard-driving and successful businessman, but the Bill Gates of our imagination is absurdly overblown.

certain things about gates does remind one about the legend of the shaven monk from ancient literature. Ancient indian literature has it that the current age of kali is most degenarate. The same also tells about how some wicked preachers were cursed by gods for having misled humans and also confused brilliant celestial sages like narada and converted them into their fold. They are said to be very active and powerful during the current age of kali. true to the prediction we have a lot of pseudo-intellectuals and scholars in every walk and institution of life.

Technology confuses us, throws us off the scent. This confusion has midwifed Microsoft’s progress. The confusion is their motor oil. Where Gates is concerned, we have barked up a lot of wrong trees. Yet it is not unfair or unreasonable to see bill gates as an oppurtunist. Bill gates is a sign of times. It is obvious that in 1970’s and 1980s Microsoft was not that big a name as ford or a GM. Microsoft products and technologies were known to a select group then. The IT boom of late 1980s and 1990s turned mediocre microsoft into a superstar. Especially during the early 1990s any midget became an entrepreneur and if one knew a few IT terms, presto! he becomes rich by just flipping out shares to public. Microsoft’s products are user friendly but it is not to say that only gates could have pioneered such products. For a company that specializes in technology, Microsoft is far too notorious for its infringement with law, especially when it came to nudging competetion.

In 1981,Microsoft's DOS was one of three official PC operating systems but quickly beat out the other two. DOS established itself as the school uniform of computing. It was homely, but everyone needed it. Once again, Gates had brokered a marriage between other people's ideas and come up with a hit. DOS was even bigger than Basic. Gates had it made.

Apple released the Macintosh in January 1984: a tony, sophisticated computer which was an exception rather than a norm was now available to the masses. Henceforth DOS was not merely homely, it was obsolete. But it continued to rake in money, so what if the critics hated it? In May 1990, Microsoft finally perfected its own version of Apple windows and called it Microsoft Windows 3.0 — another huge hit. Now Gates really (I mean really) had it made.

In the 1990s the IT was becoming dominant. This provided yet another oppurtunity for bill gates which he grabbed to roll out a merchant empire and a mercantile civilization, the one of the kind that could compete with the successful merchant empires of colonial era during late medieval ages,due to which he might as well be regarded as 20th century avtar of Robert Clive the architect of british empire in India. The cheap labour traded through H1, L1 visa system is very similar to the colonial trade of coolies to southafrica, far east and Americas. No doubt the petty mercantile “empires” that cropped up during that age were as oppurtunistic as and in some cases the very medieval legatees of the ones who dominated the IT period of 1990s, even though they were mindnumbingly mediocre and their business model reminded one of the story of emperor’s new clothes.

Gates’ character and attitude bears striking semblance to several important figures through ages. His democratization and fostering of filthy richness had one slogan at the centre: we like to take credit and accolades for everything without taking responsibility and blame for anything. Microsoft’s product suite of borrowed technologies and business model to an extent underlines this concept. No wonder, the U.S. justice department once sued microsoft for hitting companies like netscape below the belt. Focus on skills alone,Get the right job offer from Microsoft, work hard, get rich; no miracle required. Key Microsoft employees pushed Gates in this direction, but he was willing to go, and the industry followed. The Gates Road to Wealth is still a one-laner, and traffic is limited. One is reminded of the king yudhistira’s righteous resolve that the greatest wonder in the world is the desire of those alive to live forever inspite of witnessing countless deaths everyday. The proposition that he is a sign of times is further validated by the fact that if he attempted now what he successfully did in those decades he would not escape suspicion. No wonder the last decade of 20th century came to be regarded as the era of the nasty, corrupt, greedy and undesirable.

His idea of trying to usher in economic parity based on the concept that every being is same, surprisingly finds parallel in the epic of Ramayana where the demonic anti-hero ravana is praised for having achieved the same. During the rule of ravana we are told, that even poorest of household’s had golden plates and spoons to dine with and even the poor strode in golden chariots. In this regard gates quite succeeded in emulating the ten headed. The idea that a successful corporation should enrich not merely its executives and big stockholders but also a fair number of ordinary line employees is (although not unique to Microsoft) created a re-enactment of that period. A few months back gates on a philanthropic mission released funds for a health care unit during which he requested his father to hand over the cheque to the unit head an act that can certainly be viewed as very mundane. It is pathetic that a billionaire like gates must stoop to the level of giving a perception that he is not above partisan considerations and family tangle.

But the Microsoft Windows world view is dead in the water, and Microsoft has nothing to offer in its place. Windows is a relic of the ancient days when e-mail didn't matter, when the Internet and the Web didn't matter, when most computer users had only a relative handful of files to manage. Big changes have demoted computers and their operating systems to the status of TV sets. Being the biggest, toughest frog in the pond doesn't help if you're in the wrong pond.
As for Gates himself, he is no visionary; he is a technology groupie with a genius for showing up, for being at the right place at the right time. And Gates will be remembered alongside Pop-music, in the long run a sign of the times. A little on the bland side perhaps, unexciting, not awfully deep, not whom everyone consider worth emulating.
Published: 2008-08-14
Author: K Sethu Madhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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