What is Bill Gates doing?
By officially stepping back into an active role at the company he founded, is Gates trying to re-live his [youtube http://youtube.com/w/?v=6vQpW9XRiyM&feature=kp]? Back in the ‘90s, Microsoft was the world’s dominant software-maker. The stock was zooming. Desktop computers dominated our working lives, and we were trying to figure out how to share files with one another in things called “networks.”
It was a heady time. When Microsoft released Windows 95, people camped out overnight to buy their updates. It was a cultural event. But Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000, and after the company settled its Justice department lawsuit in 2001, they missed one tech trend after another. They missed music, they missed mobile, they missed search, they missed tablets. Even though they spent billions on Zune, Bing, and Surface—who comes up with these names, by the way?—they couldn’t surf the tech waves roiling the economy.
So now Gates is leaving his role as Chairman and stepping into the position of “Technology Advisor.” He shouldn’t. Big companies need singular leadership that can provide clear direction and be held accountable for results. This just muddies the waters. If new CEO Satya Nadella can’t handle the job, he shouldn’t take it.
Gates isn’t Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder who was fired but then brought them back from the brink when he returned. The world has moved on. You can’t go home again.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer