I Owe Bill Gates An Apology

on July 8, 2013

I have changed my view of no person, whether living or dead, more so than I have changed my view of Bill Gates. Where once I hoped he failed, hoped his company would fail, believed him responsible for stifling competition, innovation, cheered when my very own government was working against him, now I accept him for what he really is: the man who has most transformed the world during my lifetime.

I owe Gates an apology.

No one, not Steve Jobs, not Mark Zuckerberg, not Hewlett nor Packard, has had a more profound global impact on people and business, on the spread of technology or the continued pre-eminence of America’s globe-spanning computing innovation, than has Bill Gates. Despite innumerable obstacles, Gates succeeded with his once-mad vision of placing a PC on every desktop.

Now, he has a new mission, one far more audacious, far more transformative. It is plainly stated through his well-funded

“We believe every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”


Sadly, we are far from realizing this vision. Yet, with Gates bringing his skills to bear on this rather base human failing, I honestly believe we will move radically closer to turning the hope that every person deserves a healthy, productive life, into actual reality.

Think how computing changed and improved and spread from 1980 – 2000, only now, those changes applied to people and medicine and learning and access and work.

If, as Steve Jobs said, Bill Gates “just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas,” then perhaps in trying to solve the world’s biggest problems, this is a good thing. Gate’s tactics may have found their logical pursuit.

Gates – still the world’s richest man – no doubt understands how profoundly billions of lives can be changed for the better by radically improving the code that now now dominates our world. In public classrooms, where our nation’s children are not realizing their fullest potential, and in villages thousands of miles away, where their children are dying, the tools to alter this reality are either at hand or very soon will be. We have an amazing opportunity to remake the world.

Think Gates can’t change the world a second time? Maybe. Although, if it was 1975 again – nearly 40 years in our past, before most of the people on this planet were even born – and by some odd coincidence you actually saw this machine, a Altair 8800, could you have divined how it foretold the future? Gates could.


Embrace, extend, extinguish – the modus operandi of Microsoft under Gates, and now eagerly adopted by today’s Google – laid everything to waste, it seemed. Netscape, Lotus, Apple (nearly), Wordstar – and all the many companies and products and people we no longer can even recall.

Yet it’s this same mental prowess, this same hyper-competitive drive, likely tempered by age, that could allow Gates to show us how to extend computing power, applied data, and a ruthless fealty to results, to extinguish some of the planet’s most chronic, life-limiting maladies.

If the world can be radically improved, it will take a fundamental re-working of the existing algorithms of modern life – all the nasty realities we presently tolerate or ignore, or simply fail to see. Gates was as good at crafting an algorithm, as good at writing code, as he was a unrelenting business tycoon. The world needs him.

This time, I am on Gates’ side, without apology.