Bill Gates Talks to Rolling Stone Magazine…Reveals Microsoft Wanted To Buy WhatsApp

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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



About Author

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • SategB

    It is a good interview, it seems he actually enjoying life.

    No matter how badly Ballmer screw-up the company that he built, let’s give Gates credit for building it.

    • Bugbog

      I just have to ask, what is it with you and this ‘hard-on’ you have for Steve Ballmer? I haven’t come across a single post of yours where you don’t have something negative to say, or somehow drag the name Ballmer into it?!

      • Tips_y

        Well, Ballmer pulled himself up by his bootstraps and ended up a billionaire – maybe his butt hurt he couldn’t do it too? ;-)

        • Guest

          Don’t kid yourself. He went to Harvard, he never wore boots in his life.

      • SategB

        No hard on, quite the opposite my friend. It’s an expurgated distaste for a manager, who MS Board including Gates himself found wanting; choose to implement “Stack Ranking”, kill shareholder value, and give customers subpar products like Kin, Zune, Vista and Windows 8 while being late to the market in mobile and tablets.

        In short, I am a fan of MSFT and intelligent enough to comprehend that only way to be one is to understand and accept the damage his tenure has had on the company Gates built.

        • Bugbog

          Even so, now that he’s left isn’t it time to let it go?

          • SategB

            An abdication of dissection should only preclude when results of his causality cease to circumvent future success of MSFT that, sadly, will be one of significant duration.

          • Guest

            I get that, a good way to keep Nadella from going down the same bad road is for supporters to continue to press the mistakes Monkeyboy Ballmer made. The dude really left us in a whole.

          • LexiconRed

            You mean “hole” or “whole lot of sh!t”?

            One in the same I guess ;)

    • donzebe

      At least lets give credit to great men/women or show what we can do/have done better than they have done.
      Ballmer will always be remember for leading one of the greatest companies in world through tough times: a period of great technological innovation, when technology was change every second. The company survive, makes profit and still making profit.

      • Guest

        Only reason they were tough times was that they had Ballmer as CEO. He pursued profits at the expense of quality, customer service and innovation leaving the company in the fighting for some relevancy in future of technology.

  • http://www.spauldesign.com/ Simon Paul

    Ugh, you guys need to proof read your articles better. It’s “Rolling Stone” not “Rolling Stones” please correct the title!

    • RodHull

      So we don’t get to read about Mick and Keef’s take on this? For shame.

      • Tips_y

        LOL!

  • donzebe

    One of the most respectable leaders of our times, he never speak low of his rivals.

  • Nham Thien Duong

    Microsoft also shaped mobile computers, we should also give credit where it is due, both Microsoft and Apple were producing ”mobile computers” during the early 1990’s, people often forget this, it’s always great to see Bill Gates. :-)