The long goodbye

The long goodbye
Bill Gates will not go quietly. With the Microsoft chairman's promised exit from the company only about a year away, he seems more loathe than ever to relinquish his grip: At last week's Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting 2007, he even outlined a corporate vision spanning a full decade. Gates' address was particularly bullish on the mobile platform: "The advance in mobile devices is very exciting for us, because those have gone from being voice-only devices where software couldn't add much value, to now far-richer devices," he said. "If you look at what we're doing with Windows Mobile, what Apple is doing with the phone, it's about software innovation. The way you interact with the phone, the kind of data presentation you want there, some portion of your office capabilities brought onto that phone--the phone is part of the mix."

In a provocative New York Times profile published Monday, Gates insists he really is ceding Microsoft's technology leadership to focus on his philanthropic work (and, presumably, spend more time hanging out with BFF Bono). But he seems more combative than ever, rejecting the notion that search giant Google poses any kind of threat in the smartphone software market. "How many products, of all the Google products that have been introduced, how many of them are profit-making products?" Gates said in the Times feature. "They've introduced about 30 different products; they have one profit-making product. So, you're now making a prediction without ever seeing the software that they're going to have the world's best phone and it's going to be free?"

According to Gates, the future hinges on software: "The real magic sauce is not the parts that we buy for the Xbox, or the parts that Apple buys for iPhones, it's the software that goes into it…The phone is becoming way more software-intensive, and to be able to say that there's some challenge for us in the phone market when it's becoming software-intensive, I don't see that." And to envision Gates phasing out of Microsoft's day-to-day business just as the battle for mobile software supremacy is heating up…well, I don't see that. Love him or hate him, the man appears ready to assert his dominance over a mobile market he's already decided is his and his alone. Like any heavyweight, Gates won't hang up the gloves as long as there are worthy opponents still left to fight. -Jason

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