Last night, William H. Gates III, the chairman, and co-founder of Microsoft, was the guest of Charlie Rose on his eponymous program from PBS. The interview, lasting for the entire hour, was another glimpse into the life of one of the strangest, yet immensely successful, men in history.

Throughout the course of the interview, Gates more often than not refers to his rivals in business as ‘the other one’ or ‘the other two or three’, depending on where the conversation was headed. During the hour, if my count is correct, he only uttered the word Google once, preferring instead to use the non-specific references that by context, were indeed very specific.

Charlie gave plenty of time for Gates to elucidate the viewers about the successes and pitfalls of the adventure known as Vista, but Gates refused to say much about it. When he did comment, he gave acknowledgement to the fact that, no matter his opinion, the public view of Vista was less than positive.

This is both smart and refreshing, as much different from the public admissions of Steve Ballmer as the differences in the two men’s personalities . Gates, no matter the level of pride in his company, which is, after all considerable, is still rooted in reality. He did give clues to the fact that many things are going to be different in Windows 7, as he wishes no repeat of the Vista launch non-event.

The latter part of the hour was concentrated upon the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and his approach to philanthropy in general. He chooses to speak of it as allegory to the development of software – probably a difficult thought for those not hearing the rest of the interview. He does love it, as his eyes light up and he speaks glowingly of the challenges to be surmounted. Also noted is the fact that he felt that it was necessary to have a huge amassing of money to be taken seriously by some of those who are in the field of eliminating human suffering. The tipping point, he states, was 20 billion dollars. I found this astonishing, but it is his view.

In the very last minutes of the interview, it was clear that, no matter his age, he will always find a way to insert his views into the course that Microsoft takes, and he will never really be retired from the company. In the same vein, he will always be working, in his own style, to be sure, but never retired, simply traveling the world with no purpose, save for entertainment, or moving from one to another of his residences.

Never answer an anonymous letter.Yogi Berra
Digg This