Bill Gates sat down with Rolling Stone Magazine for extensive interview that dealt mostly with his charitable foundation. In the interview there were a few questions surrounding technology and Microsoft. He revealed that Microsoft was also interested in buying WhatsApp. He personally feels WhatsApp is extremely valuable company, but the price Mark paid for WhatsApp is more than what he expected.
If there’s a deal that symbolizes where Silicon Valley is today, it’s Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. What does that say about the economics of Silicon Valley right now? It means that Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the next Facebook. Mark has the credibility to say, “I’m going to spend $19 billion to buy something that has essentially no revenue model.” I think his aggressiveness is wise – although the price is higher than I would have expected. It shows that user bases are extremely valuable. It’s software; it can morph into a broad set of things – once you’re set up communicating with somebody, you’re not just going to do text. You’re going to do photos, you’re going to share documents, you’re going to play games together.
Apparently, Google was looking at it. Yeah, yeah. Microsoft was willing to buy it, too. . . . I don’t know if it was for $19 billion, but the company’s extremely valuable.
You mentioned Mark Zuckerberg. When you look at what he’s done, do you see some of yourself in him? Oh, sure. We’re both Harvard dropouts, we both had strong, stubborn views of what software could do. I give him more credit for shaping the user interface of his product. He’s more of a product manager than I was. I’m more of a coder, down in the bowels and the architecture, than he is. But, you know, that’s not that major of a difference. I start with architecture, and Mark starts with products, and Steve Jobs started with aesthetics.
He said that Microsoft did lots of things ahead of its time like interactive TV, digital wallet, etc, because they had other cash cows like Windows and Office.
What are the implications of the transition to mobile and the cloud for Microsoft? Office and the other Microsoft assets that we built in the Nineties and kept tuning up have lasted a long time. Now, they need more than a tuneup. But that’s pretty exciting for the people inside who say, “We need to take a little risk and do some new stuff” – like Google, which is a very strong company across a huge number of things right now.
Yeah, they were sort of born in the cloud. The fact is, search generates a lot of money. And when you have a lot of money, it allows you to go down a lot of dead ends. We had that luxury at Microsoft in the Nineties. You can pursue things that are way out there. We did massive interactiveTV stuff, we did digital-wallet stuff. A lot of it was ahead of its time, but we could afford it.
Regarding his early vision of having computer in every desk,
When you started Microsoft, you had a crazy-sounding idea that someday there would be a computer on every desktop. Now, as you return to Microsoft 40 years later, we have computers not just on our desktops, but in our pockets – and everywhere else. What is the biggest surprise to you in the way this has all played out?
Well, it’s pretty amazing to go from a world where computers were unheard of and very complex to where they’re a tool of everyday life. That was the dream that I wanted to make come true, and in a large part it’s unfolded as I’d expected. You can argue about advertising business models or which networking protocol would catch on or which screen sizes would be used for which things. There are less robots now than I would have guessed. Vision and speech have come a little later than I had guessed. But these are things that will probably emerge within five years, and certainly within 10 years.
Reading the full story at Rolling Stones with much more including Bill’s thoughts on God: Bill Gates: The Rolling Stone Interview