Being Bill Gates
In 1989, my friend, Rich, asked if I wanted to see Bill Gates speak at Beckman Auditorium in Caltech. Since I had nothing else to do (being a freshman and all), I said, “sure” and off we went.
We cut through the parking lot in order to avoid the crowds but still managed to be walking behind three people coming from the lot. I remember that two of them were in business suits either side of the third, but it was dark and I couldn’t make out much. “Two more business guys wanting to see the richest geek in the world talk,” I guess. Rich and I passed the time discussing Bill Gates’s wealth, which was a lot, but he wasn’t the richest man yet—not even in the United States, Sam Walton was still alive and Windows 3.0 had not yet come out.
Rich mentioned his net worth according to Forbes and I spent the entire time ranting about how I could not relate to a sum that large because there was no single thing a person could practically purchase that was worth close to that amount—it was essentially an “unphysical” number.
After a couple minutes of my ranting, we approached Beckman Auditorium. Right before we entered a ENG light lit up in front of us, so close that Rich and I were taken aback, blinded.
Out stepped a local news reporter to the middle guy in the trio in front of us, “Bill Gates,” she asked, “what is you comment on the Columbus Day Virus?”
A good idea
Well that was mildly embarrassing then, but one thing hasn’t changed: I still don’t know the value of sums this large and can’t estimate if the amount is a good deal or not.
What I do know is that buyout is a good idea for both. From the opinions of the Mac users, I guess this is the minority opinion so I guess I’m going to have to turn in my Mac zealot card.
Disney has had one failure after another in the CG animation world and needs to recover the glory years of animation Howard Ashman/Alan Menken duo (Coincidentally enough this began the same year as my Bill Gates story with the introduction of The Little Mermaid). Here is a company synonymous with “animation” in danger of being marginalized—that can’t be good.
Pixar can’t keep turning out blockbusters forever. In many ways they are a lot like Bungie before Microsoft bought them out. Bungie was a tiny Mac game studio that was forced to consistently turn out winners to stay in business. One day, Pixar is going to stumble and their valuation will tumble because Dreamworks is breathing down their neck. Sure, Dreamworks Animation turns out many a mediocre product, but they turn them out at nearly double Pixar’s rate—they can afford to turn out crap. Disney has the capital and the licensing/distribution deals that will remove that Sword of Damocles that hangs over Pixar.
Just an opinion.
Oh yeah, in case you were wondering
I do remember what the Gates talk was about. Most of it was spent saying how a new concept called the “Personal Digital Assistant” would be the future. The idea seemed to be a notebook-sized computer with a writing stylus as input. This was before the Apple Newton came out, let alone the Palm Pilot, WindowsCE, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, or the Tablet PC. How many ideas do you have to go through before you finally admit, “Hey! maybe that wasn’t such a great idea?”
Also, he mentioned in passing the futility of putting encyclopedias on nascent CD-ROM industry (a technology only invited five years before). Microsoft’s market research found out that there was no market in that because most people bought encyclopedias to have all those leather bound volumes on their bookshelf, not to actually use them. I thought that was very insightful, though four years later, he stopped following his own advice.
Of course my memory could be a little selective, I stopped liking Microsoft back when I noticed they made the CP/M card for my Apple ][+—I like to think that was back before it was cool to dis on the MS.