English 1 HON
Project Due March 12, 1998
THE DIGITAL WORLD OF BILL GATES
He is the richest man in the world. His former friends, who are now his enemies, hate to even hear his name. His company wants to be with you in your office, your car, and even your kitchen. Bill Gates. But there is a lot more to Bill Gates than being the richest man in the world. He is one of the people responsible for setting off the computer revolution, and by doing that, he has changed the way mankind lives forever.
So who really is Bill Gates? Most people don't really even know what it is that he does. This paper will talk about Bill Gates' personal life and the success of his company, Microsoft. It will also highlight the Gates' mansion and question if Microsoft is really monopolizing the computer and media industry or not.
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When Bill Gates was entering middle school, he was small and shy and his interests were different from the average child his age, so his parents sent him to a distinguished private school. At that time, he was constantly getting in arguments with his mother. Bill's mother felt that Bill should do what she told him, since she was his mother. His mother and father sent him to counseling, and after a year of counseling and therapy, the psychologist told his mother, "You're going to lose." (Isaacson, pg. 46) Eventually, after working with computers and founding a company with his friends that graphed traffic data for the city, his personality improved and he made peace with his mother. She was very successful herself in business. She worked at such firms as the University of Washington, The United Way, USWest, and First interstate bank. When she died in 1994, the city named the avenue that leads into their neighborhood after her. President Clinton even invited him to play golf together, to discuss the deaths of both their mothers, and to try to assuage the pain away. But Gates didn't give in.
His father is a retired lawyer who lives near Bill's new house. After his mother died, his father re-married to the director of the Seattle Art Museum. Gates also has two sisters, one which is a year older than him, and happens to be his accountant, and another sister who is nine years younger than him.
Being the richest man in the world, he still doesn't open up his personal life to anyone, but a group of very close friends. One of these men is Warren Buffet, which ironically is the second richest man in America (he was first before Gates showed up). It seems they would be the least likely two people to be friends. Gates is 42 years old, Buffet is 67. Gates has used a computer basically all his life, but Buffet just recently learned to use one. But they both share a passion: the media. When they both met, Warren Buffet bought 100 shares of Microsoft to show courtesy, now he jokes, "I'd wish I bought more." Gates also jokes, "I wish I'd invested more," talking about his $10 million investment with Buffet. (Isaacson, pg. 52).
Bill Gates met Melinda French (now Gates) 10 years ago when she was an executive at Microsoft. Melinda is just like Gates' mother: she is friendly, social, and she organizes family and friend gatherings just like his mother used to. When they married, Gates rented out every single room at a hotel in Hawaii just to have privacy. Then, two years ago in 1996, Melinda gave birth to daughter. Gates predicted he "wouldn't be all that interested in the baby" until she could talk, and communicate. But now, he is "totally into it," (Isaacson, pg. 50). It seems like Bill found something that's not digital that he can relate with! Melinda is Catholic and wants her daughter to be also. But she offered Bill a deal: If he starts going to church, he could chose any religion he wants Jennifer, their daughter, to be. Although attracted to the deal, Gates thinks, "Religion is not very efficient." He says "there's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday Morning," (Isaacson, pg. 51). Despite his fortune, he says that he plans to leave only about 10 million to each child.
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Bill Gates started Microsoft on his own along with Paul Allen, who is older than he is. Their first job together came when they got hired by a local company to write a program. When Allen tried to take over (probably since he was older) they got into an argument. Gates argued that he had to be in charge, because that was the only way they could work together. Allen refused, and took off. In the time Allen was away, Gates found a new friend, Kent Evens. To relieve the pressures of daily life, his friend took up mountain climbing. Then, one day, Bill got informed that his new friend had been killed in a tragic accident. This terrified Bill. After this incident, Gates worked hard to have his relationship with Allen continue. Allen eventually came back, with Bill in charge. When Bill went to Harvard, Allen even drove across the country to come live in Massachusetts with him. Once there, Allen convinced Bill Gates to dropout of Harvard to start Microsoft. He discussed it with his parents, and they decided that he would leave and later come back for his degree; but since he was so busy with Microsoft, he never came back for his degree. So yes, the world's richest man does not have a college degree!
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The operating system (the software which is the "brains" of the computer) is the heart of Microsoft's success. Microsoft's operating system, Windows, is running on 90% of all PCs (excluding Apple/Macintosh). Bill Gates' dream of having his software run on every desk is actually coming true!
So what makes Microsoft so successful? Well, they're paranoid that something is going to go wrong. They're so afraid something will go wrong they always keep enough money in the bank so they could operate for one entire year, without earning a single cent (they currently have $8 billion in the bank). They don't worry about a profit at first, but once their products are well known, then it's time to make a profit. For example, when DOS, the operating system that Microsoft had before Windows came out, Bill Gates wasn't concerned for a profit. The situation was that IBM was making its first computer and needed an operating system. IBM had three companies to chose to buy the operating system from, one of them being Microsoft. After reviewing the operating systems being offered by all the companies (Microsoft, Intergalactic Research, and some other company), IBM chose Microsoft's operating system, since they were willing to license it the cheapest. They didn't profit at first, but it paid off. There probably would be no Microsoft today if IBM had not chosen Microsoft's operating system.
Another reason why Microsoft is so successful is that their techniques for hiring people are so unique. They hire people young, and fresh out of college. When they're interviewing someone, they don't ask them their grades through college or high school, but instead they ask such questions as "If you were looking through a phonebook for a specific name, how many pages would you turn to find it?" In other words, they're not looking for a genius out of an Ivy League school, but a brilliant "untrained" brain instead. And they have no problem finding people for jobs either. With 3 billionaires, and over 2,000 millionaires, young people strait out of college (who are unemployed) are attracted to the company. In fact, as of December 1996, Microsoft had 20,000 overachievers and they were hiring about 200 people every day.
In late 1996, many thought that Microsoft was in trouble since it was thought that Microsoft would not be able to participate in the then newly formed Internet. But Microsoft fired back with new products that included Internet capabilities. "That was a bullet with our name on it," commented Microsoft VP Paul Maritz (Levy, pg. 58). Then, in early 1997, Microsoft insiders said that they believe that Microsoft could double in size and market value as soon as 5 years, or about 2002. What a change of opinion, in such as short time!
But is Microsoft really starting to dominate-not just in computers, but in the entire media industry? Well, just look at their products: Windows 95 allows no competitors whatsoever; Microsoft Money competes with Quicken by Intuit; Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia is the #1 selling interactive encyclopedia, with competitors such as Grolier; Automap Road Atlas competes with AAA; Microsoft's online service, MSN, offers Internet access with competitors such as America On-line; Microsoft Internet Explorer lets you browse the web and competes with Netscape's own browser; WebTV lets you surf the web on your television and competes with Samsung. With business competitors from America On-line to the American Automobile Association (AAA), it really does seem that Microsoft is trying to dominate this growing industry.
The most publicized business battle is between Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator/Communicator. Many argue that Microsoft "copied" Netscape's browser and used many similar features as Netscape's browser. And to promote its web browser, Microsoft included it with its operating system Windows 95. Then Netscape took Microsoft to court, claiming that since Microsoft made the world's most famous operating system, and since they just started making an Internet browser which competes with Netscape's browser, Microsoft was making it hard for computer users to install Netscape's browser onto their computers, and as a result were forced to use Microsoft's browser. Just recently, Microsoft was ordered to stop making computer manufacturers install Internet Explorer, which is Microsoft's Internet browser. "Any operating system without a browser is going to be f_____ (profanity) out of business. Should we improve our product, or go out of business?" says Gates (Isaacson, pg. 56).
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Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, and looking at his house, it shows. There was almost 500,000 feet of lumber used for his house, all of it being 500 year old Douglas Fir, which have been sanded to a satin glow. The five acres has been planted with native trees including Douglas Fir, alder, and maple, and are all kept in their natural appearance. Since the house is in an earthquake region, the entire foundation is concrete. All the roofs of his house are also stainless steel. The house is in Medina, Washington and is at an estimated cost of $100 million dollars (only 1% of his quarterly earnings), where the average house cost $425,000.
Such features of the house include a 20-seat theater (with popcorn machine), a 1000 sq. ft. dining room, a 2,300 sq. ft. reception hall with a 22 foot video display (made out of 24 separate 40 in. projection televisions), and a 900 sq. ft. multi purpose room (intended to be a gallery). He has three separate garages, where the main 30-car garage is 6,300 sq. ft. His exercise facility includes a sauna, steam room, and a trampoline room with a 20 foot ceiling (Gates finds bouncing as good for concentration as rocking in a chair). There is also a 3,900 sq. ft. indoor pool where you can swim under a glass wall underwater, and end up in the outdoor pool. The pool also has its own underwater music system. Attached to his piece of land that touches Lake Washington, is a boathouse and also a manmade beach with imported driftwood.
Gates hired a New York rare books store to stock up his 2,100 sq. ft. library. The library is domed, has a fireplace, and also two secret pivoting bookshelfs, where you can hide valuable possessions, such as the 16th century notebook of Leonardo da Vinci which he bought for $30.8 million dollars. His favorite books include Catcher in the Rye, Separate Peace, and The Great Gatsby. In fact, Gates inscribed the last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby around the base of his library. "He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it," (Folkers, pg. 87).
But the heart of the house is the technology. There are miles of communication cables, which are for computer servers. In the house, you wear an electronic pin, programmed with things such as your favorite music, art, TV shows etc. As you walk into a room with a display mounted on the wall, the computer scans your programmed pin, and starts playing the things you programmed on it (favorite music, art, TV shows etc.). This pin also controls the climate of the room,
and only let's the phone nearest to you ring.
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Bill Gates is not any ordinary person. He is a dreamer that wants to succeed. He will not put up with anything other than perfection. At the start of the computer revolution, he was told that his vision of a computer for the home was only chimerical. But with Paul Allen, he pushed forward proving everyone wrong. Bill Gates is not a mercenary, but rather a perspicacious visionary.
Some might say that Gates is starting to monopolize the computer industry, and is moving his way to the media industry. Going into this paper, I myself was against Microsoft, and especially Bill Gates. I believed that they were trying to dominate the market, and that Gates had gone too far. But now, after this paper, I see that that is what Bill Gates is all about. He is determined to not only beat the competition, but to demolish it. As his competitors tear down their old buildings, Microsoft builds new ones. But now, after this paper, I believe that Microsoft is not doing any thing wrong. They are simply doing business, with a vengeance. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen were young, they used to read the Fortune 500 every year, and stare in awe and wonder how those companies could have so many employees and such high earnings. Today, Bill's dream is a reality, and he is simply playing at high stakes. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now, there might not even be a Microsoft.
Folkers, Richard "Xandu 2.0"
U.S. News & World Report 1 December 1997: 87-90
Gates, Bill The Road Ahead
New York, New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1995
Haveman, Judith "Philanthropy: The Next Generation"
The Washington Post 16 November 1997: Page A01
Isaacon, Walter "In Search of the Real Bill Gates"
Time 13 January 1997: 46-57
Levy, Steven "Microsoft Century"
Newsweek 2 December 1996: 57-62
Schlender, Breton "Jobs and Gates Together"
Fortune, Applied Sciences Series: Gates, William
?Triumph of the Nerds, PBS, Television Program
? The re was no format for a television program on our works consulted handout, so I simply followed a bibliography format.