Apré Billg

This morning’s Observer column

There’s been a lot of ‘end-of-an-era’ talk about the departure of Gates from the company he founded with Paul Allen in 1975. There have also been acres of speculation about ‘whither Microsoft after Gates?’ Both topics are, well, a bit passé. The eclipse of the Gates ‘era’ began with the arrival of Google 10 years ago. And the succession plan that he and Ballmer engineered nearly two years ago effectively handed direction of Microsoft to a triumvirate of Ballmer, Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie. So let us dispense with the Kleenex and take a detached view of Mr Gates’s contribution to civilisation.

The headline is that he is the John D Rockefeller de nos jours in the sense that he shaped an emerging industry and revolutionised philanthropy. The big difference is that, unlike Rockefeller, Gates did not wait until the closing years of his career to engage in good works, and the $100bn endowment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will ensure that his name lives on…

The point I was trying to make about Microsoft is also taken up by the Economist in its piece about the end of the Gates era. The article includes this chart: