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Getting A Prediction Right

June 28, 2019

It was about 2005. I had returned to school at BYU studying Computer Science. I was a bit of an anomoly among my classmates. First I was older than most of the. I was forty years old. Most of my classmates were about half my age.

I was also a lot more experienced in the world of computers than they were. I had just finished nearly ten years at Microsoft. Microsoft was not a popular company at my school. In fact, I used to teach a TA session where I would ask people what companies they hated. Occasionally a guy from the country would offer Ford (or Chevy.) But, generally the most hated company was Microsoft.

Partly I think it was jealousy. Microsoft was the biggest and the baddest at that time. Google wasn’t around yet. Microsoft had actually infused $100M into Apple to keep it afloat as they developed the iPhone.

Party, it was the list of victims. Microsoft had systematically taken down everyone in the software business. The mere hint that Microsoft might develop a product was enough to dry up funding for a startup in the same arena. A tactic Microsoft critics called Vaporware. They had destroyed Novell, WordPerfect, Borland and dozens of other companies.

And Bill Gates was the face of Microsoft. Sure, there was a Paul Allen to play Wozniak to his Steve Jobs, but for the most part, Gates was Microsoft.

I’d be embarrassed to have as much money as Bill Gates.

It was a comment from a 22 year old ideologue. He had no idea of the billions that Gates had given away. He had no idea of the meager $250,000 salary without any stock options that Gates had taken as his salary.

All he knew was that Bill Gates was the richest man in the world and his company dominated the industry. . .and made buggy software.

Oh, Microsoft products weren’t really much worse than anyone elses. But, hackers attacked Microsoft. Often because they were the biggest. But, the year before I left Microsoft there had been a change. They spent an entire year focused on security. They stopped added new features and instead went back to shore up the existing products.

In 1995, Microsoft had “missed” the internet. The industry announced that Netscape was king of the mountain and had too much of a lead in the browser market for anyone to catch them.

Microsoft devoted the entire company to capturing the internet browser market. Within a couple of years, Netscape was no longer the king of the hill. Microsoft established a dominate position that they wouldn’t give up until Google came along years later.

So when Microsoft set out in 2004 to transform the company into a security company, the industry again announced they had missed their chance.

This was the environment as I talked to a class of Computer Science majors in 2005. I told the class that I was going to make two predictions.

First within 5 years Microsoft would be considered the industry leader in computer security.

Second, that within 10 years Bill Gates would be one of the most respected men in the world.

My predictions were met with skepticism to say the least. Of course, there was no way to prove my prediction. Not then.

But, in the ensuing 14 years, a couple of things have become clear. The question of security is open for debate. Microsoft certainly improved its security. And it has built many security features into Windows.

But, the second prediction is easier to check on. In 2014 Bill Gates was voted the most admired man in the world by a poll in The Times of London. In 2018 Bill Gates was again voted the world’s most admired man.

Bill Gates left Microsoft not long after I did. He is still the richest man in the world. It’s surprising considering that he’s given away over $50B through his foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The hatred for Gates wasn’t really rational. It was based on people’s emotional response to their perception of Microsoft. People’s love for Gates is also based on emotion. But, given the circumstances, he is probably more deserving of the praise than he was the criticism.

I don’t make predictions very often, but occasionally I get one right.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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