Posted by: kurtsh | April 22, 2020

INFO: Bill Gates on Microsoft’s Strategy – Nov 2019

Recently a podcast called “Masters of Scale” by Reid Hoffman featured an interview with Bill Gates back in November 2019 that highlighted a very interesting principle (and backstory) of Microsoft.

There’s a segment of the interview that really resonated with me about Microsoft’s long term vision.  To quote one of Microsoft’s deep thinkers, Tren Griffin:

“This has always been the core Microsoft strategy.”

imageOn software:

GATES: "Paul was totally critical to there being a Microsoft at all. Paul read about hardware. I didn’t like hardware. He drew me into that. Paul wanted us to actually build a personal computer. I said, ‘No, no. We’re just going to do software.’”

“​We’re going to do platforms – a computer on every desk…. We saw the importance of software when coupled with the miracle of the microprocessor and that there would be platforms initially – although it seems quite limited in today’s view."

"If our BASIC was on every machine – a library of BASIC programs – various applications, games to business applications, would be written in our BASIC, which had unique and proprietary aspects to it. Then anybody doing a new computer would want Microsoft BASIC."

"Then it became DOS, then it became Windows – but the economic model was the same [as BASIC]."

On Office:

GATES: ​We decided you had to do first-party applications. So that business model really gets its full proof in the late ’90s as Windows 95 ships and we do Office software around it.

​Excel leads 1-2-3 as Windows catches on; Word beats MultiMate, WordPerfect as Windows catches on. Microsoft Access beats Ashton-Tate, which ​PC Week ​ had this

column that said, "It was announced by Microsoft today that Ashton-Tate never existed." That was one of my favorite things and it was just funny. 

​There was this great panel where Mitch Kapor disagreed with me. He ran Lotus, a very important company. And I was promoting graphics interface, and at the end of the panel he said, "Bill is wrong. But he works so hard, he probably will succeed even though he’s wrong in this case." And I viewed that as quite a compliment, that my hardcore-ness could bend even the outcome of what was the right approach.

So we could do Word, and Excel, and Access, and a variety of products without slowing down. And because our strategy of building these Windows Office things that would integrate together required excellent execution. 

And in the end, the fact that we’ve bet on graphics interface, and the fact that our Excel worked better with PowerPoint, worked better with Word, which is this Office concept, the traditional competitors – Lotus, Ashton-Tate, WordPerfect – completely failed to achieve that kind of product. 

​And to this day that achievement of Office, which has now switched to online – that is Microsoft’s greatest asset.”

Taken from the transcript the interview in “Masters of Scale” with Reid Hoffman:


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