Every geek knows who Bill Gates is, but just who is the man behind the legend? In an uncharacteristically candid interview with the UK’s Daily Mail, he describes not just his family life, but what he plans to do with his personal fortune. It might sound like an easy question to someone like you and me, but if you actually stop and think about what you would do with $56 billion (after making $28 billion in charitable donations), you’ll begin to appreciate why it’s not so cut and dry.
Hit the jump to read our summarized version, including what he tells his kids when they ask for an iPad.
Everyone was a little flummoxed last week when Microsoft announced it had acquired Skype for a whopping $8.5 billion. The price seemed to be excessive and Microsoft to be an unlikely suitor. But today Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates has told the BBC that he advocated for the deal.
Despite arguments over the technicalities of Moore's Law, the bottom line is we've seen fairly consistent performance increases throughout the years in the microprocessor industry. The problem with this, says Bill Gates, is that the same expectations can't be applied to other tech sectors.
"We've all been spoiled and deeply confused by the IT model," Gates said in response to a question from the audience during last week's Techonomy conference. "Exponential improvement -- that is rare."
That isn't to say that certain tech segments never see that kind of growth, and according to Gates, you can "see it in hard disk storage, fiber capacity, gene-sequencing rates, biological databases, [and] improvements in modeling software," to name a few. But in other areas, like battery development, exponential growth just isn't a reality.
"They [batteries] haven't improved hardly at all," Gates said. "There are deep physical limits. I am funding five battery start-ups and there are probably 50 out there. [But] that is a very tough problem. It may not be solvable in any sort of economic way."
Earlier this week. Gates and Buffett announced that 40 signers, including no less than 30 billionaires and other wealthy families, have signed on to the Giving Pledge, a program whose members have agreed to give away at least half of their fortunes. When you're talking about a group of millionaires and billionaires, that's a lot of green.
We know, we know, Bill Gates isn't really part of the tech circle anymore, or at least not in the thick of things like he once was. But c'mon, no matter what your opinion of Microsoft, you have to hand it to Gates for his charity work and the truckloads of cash he's raised for philanthropy. And assuming you're a paying Windows customer (or Office or any other products Microsoft offers), you deserve a bit of kudos on this one as well.
All in all, not a bad start for a program that's less than two months old.
Has it been two years already? Bill Gates, once the face of Microsoft, stepped down from his position as CEO of the largest software maker in the world back in July 2008, and he hasn't been back since. So what's he up to now?
CNNMoney has put together a fairly in-depth piece detailing life after Microsoft for the man who, not all that long ago, was spotted doing the Robot next to Jerry Seinfeld and made us all crave churros. In a nutshell, he's doing exactly what he said he would, which is to continue fighting the good fight through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Still young by retirement standards, Bill Gates is only 54 years old with a fortune estimated at $50 billion, even after spending tens of millions of his own dollars on his Foundation.
"Because of all of his connections in business and technology and philanthropy, and his raw intellect, Bill brings an integrated, futuristic view of the world," says Jeff Raikes, a former Microsoft executive who became the CEO of the foundation at about the same time Gates retired. "One day he's meeting with [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi about not pulling back on foreign aid, and the next day he's meeting with scientists at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute to talk about progress on an AIDS vaccine, and the next day he's meeting with Arne Duncan [the U.S. Secretary of Education] on how we'd like to recognize and reward good teachers. He really has a big picture view that is unique."
Apple may boast a greater market cap than its sworn enemy now, but not a lot has actually changed: Microsoft still is the top dog in the world computer market and the Mac seems comfortably entrenched in the perennial-runner-up-to-the-PC role.
Apple's vastly improved market capitalization and the investor confidence it reflects can be attributed to its dominance in the PMP and phone segments. What started out as a MP3 player has blossomed into a device and software ecosystem that currently spans three segments and knows no parallel.
Steve Jobs avowedly learnt a valuable lesson in 1997: “We have to let go of a few notions here. We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft needs to lose.” Those words appear to have acquired a prophetic aura.
The filthy rich have a new poster boy. According to the latest Forbes World's Billionaires list, Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu is the richest man alive, with his $53.5 billion fortune proving just about enough to win him the top spot ahead of Bill Gates. Gates may have spent a substantial part of his life atop the list but this year he missed the top spot by a whisker with an estimated worth of $53 billion. He lost nip and tuck despite adding $13 billion to his fortune over the past year. This is the first time in the last 16 years that a non-American has topped the list. Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen and Michael Dell are some of the other tech honchos on the list.
By now, Bill Gates' philanthropy efforts are well known, but the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft may have still managed to surprise a few people by promising to donate $10 billion (through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) over the next decade to fund new vaccines to fight diseases in poor countries around the globe.
"We must make this the decade of vaccines," Bill Gates said at the press conference to announce the donation. "Vaccines already save and improve millions of lives in developing countries. Innovation will make it possible to save more children than ever before."
The $10 billion pledge comes in addition to $4.5 billion the foundation has already tossed towards the research, development, and launching of vaccines, CNet reports. With the $10 billion in additional funding, Gates believes there's a good shot at turning around the childhood mortality rate by the end of the decade.
"We've made vaccines our No. 1 priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen first hand their incredible impact on children's lives," Melinda Gates added.
Bill Gates is a many-faceted man. On one hand, his full-time job these days is to run a charitable foundation that provides vaccinations to poor children. On the other hand, he is still the Chairman and largest stock holder in Microsoft. There are times when he is called upon to comment on the tech industry and we see the old Billy Boy shine through.
In a recent chat with the New York Times, Gates commented on Google’s place in the business. When asked if Google was a monopoly Bill responded, “I wouldn’t call anyone a monopolist.” He went on to explain that Google was just in the club of “hyper-successful” companies that include Microsoft, IBM, and AT&T.
Gates seem unconcerned with Google’s huge lead in the search market. He stressed confidence in those working to increase Bing market share. As for Google’s recent confrontation with China, Gates affirmed his resounding indifference. “They’ve done nothing and gotten a lot of credit for it,” Gates said. To the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, Google has a lot to ground to make up before they’ll get his respect. He said in closing, “Now, if Google ever chooses to pull out of the United States, then I’d give them credit.” We’re sure Bill would love that.
Semi-retirement must be doing Bill Gates good. The billionaire software guru turned philanthropist has finally found the time to join Twitter and let the world know what he's up to these days, 140 characters at a time. And as for his very first tweet?
"'Hello World.' Hard at work on my foundation letter - publishing on 1/25," Gates wrote.
This was followed by a couple of retweets and an exchange with Ryan Seacrest, as well as a note to prominent Twitter user Ashton Kutcher and "all the other people who have welcomed me. I've got a lot to learn about Twitter but look forward to sharing more."
No surprise, Gates managed to garner over 60,000 followers on on his first day, and now the morning of the second day already has nearly 190,000 followers (as of this writing).
Any guesses on how long will take him to hit the 1 million mark?