Bill Gates

Bill Gates

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 10 1998 3:30 AM

Bill Gates

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       I'm back to my normal job after all the excitement of last week. Friday afternoon I spent with the Office group reviewing all the great work they are doing. This is the part of my job I love the most. The team showed me a lot of new approaches they have come up with. I got a chance to push for some focus on a few features like making it easy to find documents.

       I admit I have been thinking back to the hearing quite a bit. I come up with lots of things I should have said. I've even woken up a few times with ideas, but of course it is too late.

       For example, when one senator asked about profit margins, I should have explained how the intellectual-property business is different than other businesses like the grocery business the senator was involved in. In the intellectual-property business margins can be very high because the costs are very low. For a hit author the profit margins are close to 100 percent.

       People tell me the part where Barksdale polled the audience and asked only the PC users to raise their hands and then drop them if they use any Microsoft software was the best theater of the hearing. A video bite is even better than a sound bite and this was a strong video bite. If I had been smart about it I would have asked them to indicate if any of them have to pay Microsoft anything in the future unless we come up with a great new version of Windows. In other words, Microsoft gets no revenue except for innovation that goes so far beyond what they already have that it's worth the trouble to switch. I should have asked why they didn't choose LINUX or OS/2 or Macintosh--was it because of some capacity restriction or simply because they thought Windows with all the applications we have evangelized is the best choice. The same poll could have been done at one time for WordPerfect or Novell Netware or dozens of other technology products that are no longer popular.

       The hearing format was interesting. I keep wondering what it would be like for other industries to get the company doing the best to have its two most vocal competitors there bringing up every quote or allegation they can. I think C-SPAN ratings would soar--it might even replace wrestling. The only industries that wouldn't work are ones where you don't have the incredible competition that exists in software.

       I never got a chance to talk to Michael Dell before or after the hearing. Most people I have talked to didn't understand one of the points Michael was trying to make. Navigator has been free on the Web for years since there is no follow-up after the evaluation period. Since Netscape wouldn't let Michael give it to his customers for the same price they could get it on the Web, it seemed strange to charge them and have them come back and complain when they find out it is cheaper in another channel of distribution.

       I have to admit my favorite part of the hearing was at the end when Doug Burgum talked about his friendship and view of Steve Ballmer. Working with Steve is part of why I like my job so much, and that is the kind of fellowship that makes Microsoft work.

       It's quite amazing that Microsoft went from the company the Internet would replace to the one that is leading in such a short period of time. Netscape was on a path to make Windows useless because all the applications would be written to the browser, or so they said, making Windows a commodity with nothing but poorly debugged device drivers. It would have been a very different hearing in 1995 when people were writing our obituary. It didn't happen only because Microsoft has people who did a better job of including the browser work. There seem to be two classic stories about a company--either it is so strong and unchallengeable it is scary, or it is on the verge of being replaced. The second is always the most accurate for our business.

       I watched the Duke-UNC game on TV this morning. When I was switching channels afterward I happened on C-SPAN, which was doing reruns of the hearing. My daughter Jennifer saw her dad on TV and assumed it was the Barbara Walters interview. She asked a question that no senator posed to me that day: "Will Dadda sing Twinkle Twinkle?"