Friday, June 16, 2006

Just move along, no news here

All the press, and I do mean all from high tech journals to small weekly papers in the back roads of India, are running headlines today about the Bill Gates announcement from yesterday. According to the San Jose Mercury, for example, "Microsoft faces future without Gates at helm." That's eye-catching, it just isn't true!

Generally, the term "at the helm" is used for the chairman of the board of directors of a corporation. But Gates is going to stay chairman. Sometimes, it's used for the CEO - but Gates hasn't been CEO for 6 years! So which "helm" is he giving up? Answer: none of them.

Still, I can't really blame the press who are just re-iterating Gates' own words (well, restating them is perhaps a better phrase). Bill claims that (in 2 years!) he'll give up "day to day control" of the organization. But that's also what he said in 2000 when he named Steve Ballmer CEO. Ballmer will remain in that post while Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie will (supposedly) divide up Gates' other duties. Those "other duties" seemed, to this observer, to amount to a good bit of meddling with the product teams and the occasional "sermon from the mount" as Bill discovered eternal truths like the Internet, Security - and Spam. Usually long after the rest of us had made the discovery.

Will anything change at Microsoft? I really doubt it. Even if (and it's a stretch to even consider that micro-manager in chief Gates would do this) he goes to an "arms length" or "hands off" style, the cult of "what would Bill do?" will go on for many years to come. Even after the wooden stake is hammered through his heart.

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