Remember Bill Gates? He used to run Microsoft and is now trying to fix the world. He recently took a cue from his bridge partner, Warren Buffett, and wrote an annual Bill Gates letter outlining the achievements and challenges of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. It is long at about twenty pages, but worth reading.
The foundation's considerable assets were down about 20 percent last year, which is a good record considering a Wall Street market that was off about forty percent.
In an economy in turmoil, where Microsoft has had its first major layoff in the company's history, it is worth considering the three factors that Gates states made his time at Microsoft (in his words) magical, " My job at Microsoft had three magical things. First there was an opportunity for big breakthroughs -- including changing computers from being expensive and only for big companies to being inexpensive and empowering to individuals with a wide range of great software for almost any task. I wanted a personal computer with great software for myself and everyone else. Second, I thought my skills would let me help create a special company that would be part of a whole new industry. I felt I belonged in the software business, having thought about the engineering and the business possibilities maniacally from age 13. Finally, the work let me engage with people who were smart and knew things I didn’t."
Those three items would be good agenda items for Steve Ballmer, et al to remember as they decide on Microsoft's future. Microsoft needs a big breakthrough project rather than trying to be like a Google in search, or Yahoo in web presence or Facebook in social networks. A project that is big, technically challenging and serves a greater purpose than just revenue growth. Bill was a tough (some would say, monopolistic) business executive, but he did not hesitate from taking on big challenges. When he realized he had missed the Internet, he did not hesitate to turn the ship around.
Reuters has a good story on the highlights of the letter and the current spending priorities.
This story, "Bill Gates Writes Annual Letter" was originally published by Computerworld.