From a a report of yesterday’s farewell event…
Gates waited behind a black curtain, arms crossed and pacing, as Ballmer introduced him. He walked in to a standing ovation, grinning, and introduced his wife, Melinda, and his children in the audience. He talked about the company’s history, including the “David and Goliath” battle against IBM, saying with a smile that he thinks that story came out the right way. He talked about the competitive landscape, saying that he thinks it’s still right for the company to focus on software.
“We have so many opportunities to surprise people,” he said.
He acknowledged that it won’t be easy to move on, given how natural it has become for him to work at the company over the past three decades. Sometimes, when he’s driving his children, Gates said, “If I forget and start thinking about work a little, I start driving to Microsoft. They say, ‘Dad, dad, what are we going to do at Microsoft?’ ”
Asked about his biggest mistake, Gates said the key thing in software is to accurately anticipate new bends in the road. He said Microsoft was ahead of the curve in areas like the graphical user interface, but he also acknowledged that it has been behind in other areas, such as Internet search and advertising: “When we miss a big change and we don’t get great people on it, that is the most dangerous thing for us,” Gates said. “It’s happened many times. It’s OK, but the less the better.”