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Bill Gates, Essay Example

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Essay

Born to attorney, William Henry II and teacher, Mary Maxwell Gates in Seattle, Washington on 28th October, 1955, Bill Gates was curious and competitive even as a child. Not surprisingly, his parents enrolled him in the private preparation school, Lakeside School where Gates excelled at a number of subjects including Math, Science, English Literature, and Drama. Bill Gates first encounter with computer occurred at Lakeside when the school acquired one as part of a deal with the city of Seattle (Sean).

Bill Gates was 13 years old when his interest in computers began and he would spend much of his time in the computer terminal. His enthusiasm for computers was shared by another student Paul Allen who was two years his senior. The two friends went into business together in 1970 when Bill was only fifteen years old and their first software “Traf-o-Data” that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle netted them $20,000. Gates enrolled at Harvard University in the fall of 1973 with the aim of pursuing a career in Law but continued to spend most of his time in the computer lab. In 1974, Gates joined Paul Allen at Honeywell but the two friends soon joined Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry System (MITS) when the BASIC software program written by the duo worked perfectly on MITS Altair computer. Gates had already dropped out of Harvard before joining MITS even though his parents were disappointed by his decision to drop out of the college (Biography.com).

Bill Gates journey from Lakeside to MITS reveal several clues about his personality. First of all, Bill Gates knew what he enjoyed and would even go to the extremes to follow his passion. He would spend hours at the computer terminal at Lakeside and even though he intended to major in Law at Harvard, his love affair with the computer lab continued. Second, Bill Gates was not afraid to challenge the norms and take risks. He went into business first time when he was only 15 years old and even dropped out of Harvard to join MITS because computers were his real passion.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft as a software company in 1975. When IBM approached Microsoft in 1980 for help with the personal computer project, code named Project Chess, Gates MS-DOS operating system but didn’t license it exclusively to IBM. By early 1990s, Microsoft had sold more than one hundred million copies of MS-DOS operating system (Encyclopedia of World Biography). Bill Gates refusal to exclusively license MS-DOS to IBM demonstrates that he was as shrewd a businessman as he was software visionary. Gates probably realized that the marginal cost of producing MS-DOS is almost zero while volume will not only ensure tremendous profit but also huge market share. The fact that Microsoft didn’t enter computer hardware market proves that Gates understood the economics of hardware and software very well and knew that software dominance is much more difficult to break. By generously licensing software to all hardware manufacturers unlike Apple’s Steven Jobs, Bill Gates locked in consumers and created huge entry barriers for potential competitors.

In 1981, Apple invited Microsoft to help develop software for Macintosh computers. When Gates saw Apple’s VisiCorp software which incorporated Graphical User Interface (GUI), he sensed both a threat to relatively complex MS-DOS operating system as well as an opportunity. This experience became the foundation for Microsoft Windows operating system that also incorporated GUI. Though Apple unsuccessfully sued Microsoft and stories are still prevalent that Gates stole the GUI idea from Apple, this event also demonstrated Gates leadership skills. Gates kept eyes on both current and potential competitors and could recognize a threat when he came across one. In addition, Gates was also willing to learn from competitors for as long as the idea held promise. Gates realized that GUI operating system posed a real threat because it was intuitive and could be used even by technologically-novice individuals. He also knew he had to act fast which is why Microsoft announced GUI operating system about two years before it actually introduced Windows in 1985.

Bill Gates also used the dominance of its operating system to introduce other products with significant success including Microsoft Office Suite and Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft’s monopoly became the basis of federal lawsuit against the company that could have broken the company into three parts (Biography Online). Microsoft’s dominance in several software markets under Gates’ leadership reflects Gates competitiveness. Gates might have transformed himself through his philanthropic activities but he was never easy on the competition. When he would sense a threat, he would immediately take steps to encounter it before the threat becomes a serious challenge. Gates was never the one to procrastinate which is why Microsoft almost never lost a competition until it lost the search engine battle to Google.

Bill Gates has been a lifelong learner and once he got interested in philanthropy, also due to his wife, Melinda Gates, he extensively studied Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Bill and Melinda Gates founded William H. Gates Foundation in 1994 and combined several family foundations in 2000 to form Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Beginning in 2000, he gradually started decreasing his involvement in Microsoft and in 2008, fully committed himself to his philanthropic endeavors (Biography.com). Gates transition to philanthropy once again demonstrates that he is never happy with the average. When he decides to make a difference, whether through computer software or through philanthropy, he wants to do the best he is capable of. Through his foundation, he has been tackling some of the world’s toughest health challenges such as AIDS and malnutrition which shows that he has never been shy of taking difficult challenges and has tremendous belief in himself. Bill Gates has demonstrated his ability to inspire not only ordinary individuals but successful people as well many of whom have pledged to donate a significant proportion of their wealth to philanthropic activities. The fact that Warren Buffet has pledged most of his fortune to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Nichols) reflects Buffet’s trust in Gates leadership.

Bill Gates success has not merely been the outcome of being in the right place at the right time but also his personal qualities such as willingness to take risks, acting upon his dreams, carefully monitoring the external environment and responding in a timely manner, and having a huge self-confident. Gates has always been a practical person as both his professional and philanthropic lives show. When he dreamt of putting computer in every house, he knew the solution was to make an operating system of decent quality at a reasonable price rather than a high-quality operating system at a premium price. As he ventured into philanthropy, he realized the magnitude of challenges was too much even for him despite his huge wealth, thus, he invited fellow billionaires to join him. Gates will be remembered for a long time after he is gone, both for his accomplishments in the tech sector as well as his courage to tackle the world’s greatest health challenges.

References

Biography Online. Biography of Bill Gates. 9 October 2012 <http://www.biographyonline.net/business/bill-gates.html>.

Biography.com. “Bill Gates.” 9 October 2012 <http://www.biography.com/people/bill-gates-9307520?page=1>.

Encyclopedia of World Biography. Bill Gates Biography. 9 October 2012 <http://www.notablebiographies.com/Fi-Gi/Gates-Bill.html#b>.

Nichols, Michelle. “Bill Gates’s philanthropy costs him richest-man title.” 8 March 2011. Reuters. 9 October 2012 <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/08/us-wealth-gates-philanthropy-idUSTRE72668V20110308>.

Sean, Peter. Bill Gates. 9 October 2012 <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0309540/bio>.

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