November 4th, 2003

Microsoft without Bill Gates


At the Asia Open Source Symposium today, a friend asked me: “What do you think will happen to Microsoft if Bill Gate leaves?”

After giving it some thought, I said “Probably nothing”.

I mean, why would it be any difference? While Bill Gates is the icon for Microsoft, the real power of Microsoft, IMHO, are the huge number of talented people in Microsoft who can make things happens, its culture of taking big risk and never give up and its seasoned processes for software development to business operation. Microsoft, in short, is an conscience entity of its own, beyond any single individual, even Bill Gate.Most start-ups and companies I know focuses finding its niche, building great products for their customers, increase market share, or increase shareholder values. Nothing wrong with these but if you examine truely great companies (see Build to Last), companies that last through tens or hundreds of years focuses on things beyond surface things.

In fact, truely great companies also focuses on building company identity by having its own culture and values, and developing business processes so to handle situation. Great companies spend as much time building itself as much as building company.

And Microsoft, I believe, is one great company which have done so. I am sure Bill Gate spent at least as much time thinking about what kind of company he wants to build as he would on the the product Microsoft will sell in the early days.

ps: Yes, I admire Microsoft. But I am still a supportor of Open Source. :-)

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