If anyone needs to know how Microsoft got into the technological doldrums it’s been in for some time, just take a look into the mind of Bill Gates. Interviewed by CNET, he made a few doozies that deserve people’s attention (thanks to Adam Penenberg of Slate for drawing my attention to it):
In recent years, there’s been a lot of people clamoring to reform and restrict intellectual-property rights. It started out with just a few people, but now there are a bunch of advocates saying, “We’ve got to look at patents, we’ve got to look at copyrights.” What’s driving this, and do you think intellectual-property laws need to be reformed?
Gates: No, I’d say that of the world’s economies, there’s more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.
That’s right, you heard it: all of us who support open source, peer to peer…we’re all lousy commies. He sounds like he belongs in a 50s B-movie about FBI agents fighting Communist conspiracies right here under our noses in the good ‘ol USA. Besides Bill, we don’t mind you disagree with us; but at least do us the favor of characterizing our beliefs properly. We’re not against incentives, we’re against your current means of distribution. And besides, the issue isn’t the musicians and artists. You don’t give a crap about them. It’s about maintaining your own corporate distribution channel and its golden revenue stream. Right now, it looks to me like Microsoft is being led by a guy who thinks like J. Edgar Hoover. Nice, MS.
There are also a few other moments of delusion worth mentioning:
When asked about the blogging phenomenon, instead of making a semi-articulate statement about it he mouths more self-serving Micro-plugs:
Well, actually I think the biggest blogging statistic I know, which really blew me away, is that we’ve got close to a million people setting up blogs (Web logs) with the Spaces capability that’s connected up to Messenger.
Spaces seems to be Microsoft’s best effort to compete with the phenomenal success of Movable Type, WordPress and Typepad. And it’s like so many Microsoft efforts–a day late and a dollar short. The innovation in blogging platforms isn’t happening (and won’t ever be) at Microsoft. Just take a look at some of the blogs offered at Spaces. Nothing especially wrong with them. But it seems that the blogs are not an object in themselves, but rather a synergy for Microsoft to package more readers and eyeballs for their ads and products.
But when asked about blogs, Bill reveals his complete lack of understanding of them. First, he’s asked what blogs he reads. His answer? He can’t name a single one and instead makes this feeble response:
Well, it’s interesting, I get a lot of people–and this is very typical for me–I get people who are forwarding things on to me, so I sort of have human search engines that will say, “Hey, there’s a particular thing that’s hot and that’s interesting.”
I just type in various keywords. We have a lot of blogs that are just internal to Microsoft where people are completely open about what’s going on with this, what’s going on with that.
Isn’t it nice to have several thousand people acting as your personal search engine?
Bill admits that he’s even had a hankering to write a blog:
I’ve toyed with doing one myself, but I don’t want to be one of those people who start and then don’t finish it, and again I’m thinking maybe I could do one a month or one every six weeks–something like that. I’d kind of like to, but I’ve got to be sure I can keep going for at least a year to make it worth doing.
Bill, Bill, a blog isn’t something you “finish.” That’s the whole point of it. It’s ongoing. It’s in process. It’s a record of a journey. Note Bill thinks he can write a blog by posting “once a month or one every six weeks–something like that.” Yeah, something like that. No understanding that what he’s talking about isn’t a blog. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not a blog.
Bill, also makes the mistake of trying to say something intelligent about the oncoming Mozilla/Firefox browser train that is creating former IE-users in droves (including this blogger who left IE nearly two years ago for warmer browser climes):
Other browsers are making market share gains. When does this become a problem or an issue for you guys?
Well, people get confused about browsers. You can have as many browsers as you want on your PC, just like you can have tons of music players and things like that. As RSS has gotten more sophisticated and value-added search capabilities have come along, this thing is really maturing.
So when people say Firefox is being downloaded onto people’s systems, that’s true, but IE is also on those systems. Firefox is new, and people are trying it out. There’s a certain percentage of people who do that–it’s very easy to download.
We need to keep IE the best. We need to innovate in IE, do more add-ons, do improvements. We have some very exciting plans there. Some percentage of users are going to try Firefox and IE side by side, and use the one that’s best.
So no big problem; it’s not that people have stopped using IE, it’s just we’ve got lots of good ideas that can match and move ahead.
In terms of our agility to do things on the browser, people who underestimated us there in the past lived to regret that.
So instead of trying to understand the Firefox phenomenon and why IE’s ossification has made it’s success possible, he resorts to false platitudes. Sure, I have IE on my pc. But I only use it for sites which don’t play nice with Firefox. IE is my browser of last resort. The comment about needing to keep IE “the best” is laughable. IE hasn’t been the best in several years (if it ever was). And by the time IE 7.0 comes out, whatever it’s innovations I’m sure that Mozilla will be on to the next generation of innovations that IE and Microsoft haven’t even begun to contemplate. Firefox is a perfect example of why open source beats proprietary centralized technical systems every time. It is always innovating, changing and adapting and applying these things to the browser function as they come online. Microsoft has to bundle up its innovations for roll-outs that happen every few years.
This interview is eleven months old and it is possible that Gates’ thinking on some of these subjects has developed. But I don’t think it has any less relevance to the technological issues of today.