Bill Gates Tells Reddit He'll Mostly Focus on Products for Microsoft
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates likes to wash dishes, plays bridge and has no plans to be cryogenically frozen, he shared during an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on Reddit Feb. 10. On the matter of the dishes, Gates said others volunteer for the job, "but I like the way I do it." This prompted many imaginings of the wealthy Gates throwing out the dishes each night and starting with a new set. One conversation participant offered a detailed fantasy of Gates, standing on a back patio on a "mild summer evening," tossing plate after plate over his shoulder "into the dark beyond; first backhand, then forehand, then like a ball, then hammer style.'" Such is the playfulness the Reddit format allows, and that Gates, as an active user, is well-acquainted with. (Gates participated in Reddit's Secret Santa 2013 and his generous gift, well documented by the grateful recipient, made headlines.)When Microsoft appointed Satya Nadella its third CEO Feb. 4, it announce that Gates would be stepping down as chairman of the board and would play a new role at the company, advising Nadella on technology and products. "I am excited about how the cloud and new devices can help us communicate and collaborate in new ways," Gates wrote on Reddit. "The OS won't just be on one device and the information won't just be files—it will be your history, including being able to review memories of things like kids growing up. I was thrilled Satya asked me to pitch in to make sure Microsoft is ambitious with its innovation. Even in Office there is a lot more that can be done." Gates also made clear that the energy he'll be refocusing on Microsoft is significant. "My time will be about 2/3 Foundation and 1/3 Microsoft," he wrote, when asked about the breakdown. "I will focus on product work mostly." When asked how Nadella's vision varies from his own, he answered, "Satya is taking a fresh view of where Microsoft is—its strengths and weaknesses. A new person gets to step back and change the focus in some ways. He is off to a great start." Gates also answered questions about his most extravagant purchase (a plane—though he added that he goes a lot of places for the Foundation that he wouldn't be able to without it) and a Gates Foundation condom design contest ("One grantee is using carbon nanotubes to reduce the thickness"); offered advice to entrepreneurs ("Just creating an innovative company is a huge contribution to the world"); and asked a question of his own: "How can we help more people understand that foreign aid isn't 25% or even 10% of the U.S. federal budget, but less than 1%?" No one offered an idea better than taking out a Super Bowl ad. Before signing off, Gates addressed a question about his favorite project he worked on at Microsoft. "The Windows project which required a lot of patience was great," Gates wrote. "Office was also great. Together they defined the big success of the 1990s for Microsoft. Office connected to the cloud has a LOT of potential and we are off to a good start. Cloud storage needs to be a lot richer, though." Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.
Gates used the AMA to promote the Gates Foundation's annual letter, which discusses the three myths that block progress for the poor. But during it he also discussed his new role at Microsoft and, arguably, continued the work of acquainting himself with a young generation of potential new Microsoft users, and them with him.