Bill Gates

Bill Gates

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 4 1998 3:30 AM

Bill Gates

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       Last night, Monday night, I typed up my remarks for the Senate Committee, and did a little rehearsal to see how long it would run. It ran about eight minutes, so I cut it back a little bit. I must have been thinking about the speech when I was sleeping last night because I woke up and made some edits to get some more things in about the PC industry and a little bit about the future of the Internet--that it's clearly exciting but nobody really knows exactly where it's going.

       This morning, I stopped by Senator Murray's office and had a doughnut before walking over to the hearing room. There's a tradition of senators from your state who are supporting you and want to be helpful escorting you into a meeting like this, even though they're not members of the committee. It was great to have Senator Murray and Senator Gorton take me in.

       I dropped by the hearing room the night before, just to get a feel for it, but when I got in there and there were 12 video cameras and hundreds of people, it was pretty lively.

       I was sitting on the right side of the speaker's table, and Scott McNealy was sitting next to me, so we got a chance to talk a little bit. Even though he doesn't like PCs and wants to put them out of business, he's a very charming guy and somebody I've enjoyed getting to know over the years. So he and I chatted a little bit. He was a little worried he'd have to leave the hearing at 1 p.m., before it got over, but I didn't mind that he might have to leave.

       After the hearing was called to order and the senators made their opening statements, I was invited to speak. They have lights up there that time you in five-minute intervals. I went through my statement pretty much as I had written it, although there were a few changes that came to me on the fly. I ran, I think, about a minute and a half over.

       Stewart Alsop was the last panel member to speak. He made an interesting allusion to how hearings can be kind of intimidating, because some of his relatives were involved in the McCarthy hearings. Then, after all the statements, we got into the Q & A session. That got off to a very good start--it was an opportunity for me to elaborate on what I'd said in my statement about innovation in the PC industry and the creation of thousands of new jobs, and all the new companies, and the American leadership across the board in this area.

       One interesting thing one senator asked was will Windows continue to be successful? Is that for sure in 10 years time? Scott McNealy, who spends a lot of time talking about how he's going to replace Windows with his network computers, in this setting sort of had to downplay the fact, and act like he wasn't much of a competitive threat at all. But Stewart Alsop jumped in and sort of took him to task for not admitting that he really was after Windows, the same way that Netscape has always talked about being after Windows.

       Senator Strom Thurmond asked some good questions. It's kind of amazing that at age 94 or 95 he's obviously quite vigorous in his thinking and involvement.

       I think the panel was a good mix--two hardcore competitors who want to displace us, a partner from the hardware industry--Michael Dell, Doug Burgum from Great Plains Software, and Alsop, an industry commentator.

       It was a pretty long hearing. We went from 10 a.m. until 2:20 p.m., with just a 10-minute break. I'd say the majority of questions were directed at me, although certainly McNealy and Barksdale were jumping in and telling their side of the story whenever they could. There was a lot of taking quotes out of magazines and trying to make something of those. There was a bit of a side issue about our channel guide in Internet Explorer and how we've worked with partners on that. We actually let these partners promote Netscape and exploit Netscape but we don't let them be in the Netscape channel guide at the same time. Given the relative lack of use of the channel guide by customers, it was a little surprising that it was such a big focus.

       All the analysts, except for Stewart Alsop, said there is no new legislation needed and that regulation would be a very bad thing. In fact, Scott McNealy was very hardcore on that point, which is great, because it is very consistent with his political beliefs. It was also good to hear Netscape say those same things--that they don't think any regulation is required.

       I certainly enjoyed a chance to talk about what we do, what motivates us, and to set the record straight on a couple of things that competitors like Netscape have tried to throw in our way. Overall, I think it was quite successful. I was given a chance to answer the questions very fully. People I talked to afterward thought it had gone very well and that we told the Microsoft story, which is an amazing story. Perhaps even more importantly, we told the story of our industry.

       It was a new experience for me, but I'm sure I'll be back in front of Congress on a variety of issues: encryption, immigration, Internet taxation. There are a lot of policy issues like these that will determine whether we and other software companies will take full advantage of all the innovation and the opportunities on the Internet.

       There were a lot of young people who came in to listen, and a lot of them came up to me afterward and asked for my autograph, wanting to shake my hand. It was great to see so many young people who care about our industry.

       After the hearing I got a chance to talk to the press about how the hearings went. It's amazing how many reporters were there.

       Then I got on a plane and headed up to New York, where Time magazine is having its 75th anniversary dinner. I just got done working on my remarks about the Wright Brothers. Like this morning, I have five minutes to talk. It seems like the whole world operates in five-minute intervals. I hope there aren't red lights tonight telling me it's time to stop. There are going to be some fascinating people there tonight: President Clinton, President Gorbachev, Steven Spielberg--whom I've gotten to know through DreamWorks--Mary Tyler Moore, and Toni Morrison. I think it will be a great evening.