Bill Gates Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The software and the software company that Gates created dominated the market, partly because he realized the marketing potential for his own and other software.

Bill Gates was born into a family of modest but comfortable wealth and developed a fascination with electronics from an early age. In high school, he met Paul Allen and formed a partnership that would result in the founding of Microsoft. At that time, the only consumer microcomputer was the Altair, a toy that was operated by flipping switches on its front panel. Gates figured out how to run a BASIC compiler on the Altair, despite its extremely limited memory; this accomplishment became the foundation of his fortune.Gates, Bill

From the beginning, Gates recognized that a piece of software did not have to be perfect to find a market. Equally, a software company did not have to develop all of its software in-house. SoftwareIn fact, it was often preferable to license merely adequate third-party software and sell one’s products when the market was hot, rather than spend the time to develop superior, proprietary software but miss the market’s peak of interest. The Microsoft Disk Operating SystemMicrosoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) was a perfect example of that principle in practice. MicrosoftMicrosoft obtained it from another company in order to have it ready in time for the release of the International Business MachinesInternational Business Machines Personal Computer (IBM PC). As a result, MS-DOS dominated the market for IBM-compatible operating systems throughout the 1980’s.

Bill Gates.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Apple’s Apple (company)successful graphical user interface (GUI), the Macintosh Finder, presented an alternative to MS-DOS that was limited only by its higher price. As a result, Microsoft set to work developing its own GUI, Windows. The earliest versions were simple shell programs, and even the 1990 operating system Windows 3.1 was mocked by Mac users. Windows 95, however, proved to have such a smooth interface that Apple sued Microsoft for copyright infringement. A judge decided in Microsoft’s favor, on the grounds that Apple had licensed core aspects of its GUI to Microsoft during the mid-1980’s for use in Windows 1.0. However, the Federal Trade Commission began investigating allegations of monopolistic practices in Microsoft’s software bundles.

In 1997, Gates worked out a joint venture agreement with Steve Jobs that saved Apple Computer and gained Microsoft some protection against antitrust suits. He began a program of charitable giving in an effort to improve public opinion of him and his company. In addition, he began to rethink his role in Microsoft, moving away from routine administrative work and concentrating on keeping his company innovative. He wrote The Road Ahead (1994) and Business @ the Speed of Light (1999), books in which he discussed the future of business and information technology and how businesses had to actively embrace information technology to survive and succeed in the digital age.

Further Reading
  • Liebovich, Mark. The New Imperialists: How Five Restless Kids Grew Up to Virtually Rule Your World. Paramus, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 2002.
  • Slater, Robert. Microsoft Rebooted: How Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer Reinvented Their Company. New York: Portfolio, 2004.
  • Wallace, James, and Jim Erickson. Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. New York: Harper Business, 1993.

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