Geek Goliath: Gates Says G'Bye to Microsoft

"I think he believes he's got everything in place for an orderly transition and he's leaving the company in good hands," author Foley said.

Backlash from Silicon Valley is to be expected, Foley said, but not always heeded.

"It's fun to believe that David can beat Goliath, but the way that you beat Goliath is not by pretending that Goliath isn't the way that he is," she said.

While Foley believes that Microsoft hasn't done a particularly good job of fighting those perceptions of a company that's following instead of leading, she says it would be foolish to count Microsoft out or even on the decline.

"I think they've been really clear where they're going to go in the future. All these reports about [the company] not having a strategy are just from people who haven't done their homework," Foley said. "In the near term, their business model is going to stay what it is. Windows and Office are going to be the cash cows, and that's how they're going to construct the business."

"In the longer term, after, say, three to five years out, they're going to start transitioning to services because that's what [businesses] want," Foley added. "They're going to add some services to Office. They believe this hybrid approach, with software on the client combined with services, are what people are going to want."

Despite any criticism about Vista or the company's strategies, the Microsoft founder is still something of a rock star among computer programmers — one of their own who made it big, became a millionaire and got the girl.

"Gates is to the IT industry what Henry Ford was to the auto industry," said Nik Cubrilovic, co-editor of Silicon Valley blog Tech Crunch and a longtime software developer. "No single person has even come close to reaching the level of influence that he has achieved. Even if you look at the next generation of companies — even Google will never achieve the level of influence that Gates has because he was there at the beginning of the PC industry."

That influence, according to Dan Evans, a senior editor at PC Mag, is an operating system standard that made it easier for developers to bring programs to the masses.

"What he's leaving in his wake is more of a unified software industry. It used to be before Microsoft, there were different OS's. It was hard to write a software that would be on all these different [platforms]," Evans said. "This evolved from Basic to DOS from Windows to dot.net to cloud computing, but it all started with a software industry with a platform that anyone can write to."

But, like many others, Evans thinks that Gates' next move — the management of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a $37.3 billion endowment — could outweigh any of his achievements in the tech world.

"I'm sure if you asked the man on the street what Andrew Carnegie did, how he made his money, they probably wouldn't know. The effects of Carnegie's money are all around us," Evans said. "There will be … bigger and better technology, but the effects of the [Bill & Melinda Gates] foundation will definitely be around."

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