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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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June 22, 2009 11:17 AM

Lunchbreak: Bill Gates and his dad interview for Father's Day

Posted by Sharon Chan

The best advice Bill Gates' dad gave him? Forcing him to play sports he sucked at.

That's according to a Father's Day interview the two did with Fortune magazine in Paris. The rest of the advice is pretty ordinary -- sitting down to Sunday dinner regularly, wearing the same pajamas for Christmas each year.

Either they're deliberately hiding the Harry Potter magic or the stuff you're already doing as a parent -- dragging your kid to Little League to sit on the bench -- is a billionaire's upbringing. Try reconciling that with our columnist Danny Westneat's Sunday piece on the crazy schedules parents and kids endure.

There's one interesting nugget in the middle of Fortune's magazine piece which hints that Bill Gates' parents sent him to meet with a therapist (interview says "professional) when he was 12 or 13, which dramatically improved his relationship with them.

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June 15, 2009 2:34 PM

Microsoft news roundup: Bill Gates tie-less, cell phones cut, Google on Bing

Posted by Sharon Chan

Some bits and bytes on Microsoft from around the country:

New York Post says Google's co-founder Sergey Brin has a team of engineers dissecting Bing, Microsoft's newly upgraded search engine. Early data after Bing's launch at the beginning of June show that traffic numbers have improved for Microsoft's search operation.

MocoNews says Microsoft has stopped reimbursing employees for their BlackBerry and iPhone plans, unless they switch to a Windows Mobile device. We ran a New York Times story today on how even discretionary spending shrinks elsewhere, smartphone sales are projected to go up by 25 percent this year. And on the other end of the spectrum, here's another story we ran today about how the poor are using a federal government telecom subsidy for cell phones.

Seattle Examiner reports that Bill Gates shocked Cambridge when he showed up to receive an honorary degree without a tie. Which would make news only in England.

Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Bing , Employee benefits , Google , Microsoft , Mobile , News roundup , Windows Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Billionaire Bill, down $18 billion, is back on top of Forbes list

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Scroogeswim.jpg The Forbes list of the world's richest people is practically a rite of spring around here. Are we home to the richest, second richest or, gasp, third richest person in the world? This year, as billionaires around the world saw their fortunes cut by the global economic downturn, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost the least among the top three -- $18 billion -- and edged back to the top spot on the list with about $40 billion in his money bin. Gates' friend and partner-in-philanthropy Warren Buffett is No. 2 on the list, with $37 very large. (He had moved to No. 1 in last year's survey.) Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who surpassed Gates as world's richest in summer 2007 (by a different estimate), is third on the global list with $35 billion. Another software titan, Larry Ellison of Oracle, leaped from 14th in 2008 to 4th, at $22.5 billion.

Continue reading this post ...

Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Compensation , Financial , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Philanthropy , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 12, 2009 2:21 PM

What fate for Bill Gates' famous 'Think Weeks' at Microsoft?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

First mentioned last week in Mini-Microsoft's "pause" post, Microsoft is apparently rethinking the weeklong study sessions instituted by Bill Gates and later expanded to be a tool for percolating ideas up to the top from throughout the company. Mini wrote, "Within our leadership, there's no one left who wants to read your Think Week paper, so they're killing that off."Mary Jo Foley followed up today, quoting a Microsoft spokesperson saying the company remains committed to innovation, and it is "evaluating how best to evolve Think Week."

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Corporate culture , Corporate organization |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 4, 2009 2:52 PM

Gates releases mosquitoes at tech confab, Web has field day

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Steve Jurvetson/flickr

An image of Gates at TED, captured by venture capitalist Steve Jurveston with a Blackberry and posted on flickr.

I'm trying to verify this with the press office of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but if the reports streaming in from Twitter are to be believed Bill Gates just released mosquitoes into a crowd of smart, rich people to make a point about malaria. He then said to the audience at TED, an exclusive conference on technology, entertainment and design, "Not only poor people should experience this," according to several reports.

[Update, 3:19 p.m.: Some Tweets (or Twits, your call) suggest that Gates only pretended to release the mosquitoes. But an official-looking TED Twitter account posted this update about an hour ago: "#TED Confirmed: yes they were real mosquitoes. No they were not malarial. An amazing TED moment."]

The digs are coming in along these lines, "Well, anyone who uses M. Gates' products already knows he has no shortage of bugs to spread around." (From Gawker comments.)

Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Gates Foundation , Personalities , Philanthropy , Public policy & issues |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 4, 2009 8:34 PM

CES preview: Ballmer takes the keynote torch from Gates

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Paul Sakuma / The Associated Press

Slash joined Gates on stage at CES in 2008.

One significant change at the International Consumer Electronics Show is who will deliver the preshow keynote. Bill Gates delivered it for more than a decade. Now, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will do the honors on Wednesday night. Check out this preview of a story on what the change could mean from Monday's paper. I'll be in Las Vegas covering CES beginning Tuesday. Check back here for updates throughout the week.
Not that he needed one, but Bill Gates had rock star Slash help him cap his performance at the International Consumer Electronics Show last year.

After keeping Microsoft on center stage at the annual gathering of all things silicon and circuitry for more than a decade, Gates said goodbye to CES last year, six months before he dialed-back at Microsoft to pursue philanthropy full time.

But Microsoft has managed to hold on to the coveted preshow keynote at CES.

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December 3, 2008 9:33 AM

How would Bill Gates solve the economic crisis? CNN's Wolf Blitzer asks tonight

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bill Gates will discuss possible solutions to the current economic crisis in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer set to air this afternoon on The Situation Room.

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October 7, 2008 5:53 AM

Q&A with Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, and Bill Gates take the stage at a conference in 2007.

I spoke Monday with Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer and one of the two executives filling Bill Gates' role in setting the company's course. He is in the midst of a U.S. university tour, talking to students and professors about Microsoft and the future of technology in many different disciplines. (Here's today's story from the paper.) It's something Gates used to do regularly, and another way Mundie has assumed Gates' functions at the company. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation, covering his tour, views on technology in education, Gates' transition, and the Windows ad campaign.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Education , Natural user interface , Personalities , Research , Strategy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 18, 2008 11:24 AM

Tech moguls claim upper tier of Forbes list of richest Americans

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Forbes published its annual list of the 400 richest Americans yesterday. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is on top with an estimated $57 billion fortune. Forbes notes that Gates has more than half his fortune outside of Microsoft stock and that his pile has declined 5 percent in the last 12 months. Another interesting note: "Inflation-adjusted net worth would top $90 billion if he hadn't given away any cash."

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Facebook , Financial , Google , Personalities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 18, 2008 8:23 AM

Next Microsoft ad takes aim at Apple's "I'm a PC" stereotype

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

STEROTYPE30_TTL_sean2.jpg "Hello. I'm a PC. And I've been made into a stereotype," says Sean, right, in the outset of the latest installment in Microsoft's $300 million Windows ad campaign, set to debut tonight in prime time.

(Update, 7:26 p.m.: Watch it here.)

The sixty-second spot -- one of several elements in a campaign that will span print, the Web, television and outdoor -- launches into a series of testimonials by other people, including celebrities and real people, who proclaim, "I'm a PC."

"I'm a PC, and I'm not what you would call hip," says a woman standing in front of a white board. Bill Gates is next. "I'm a PC," says the Microsoft founder, holding a bag (paper) of groceries, "and I wear glasses."

Architect Edouard Francois says he designs green buildings. "Desperate Houswives" star Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker, guard for the San Antonio Spurs, make an appearance. As does Deepak Chopra, who intones, "I am a PC and I am a human being. Not a human doing. Not a human thinking. A human being."

Update, 9:43 a.m.: The spot closes with the tag line for the campaign: "Windows: Life without Walls." Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group, said Microsoft felt it had to reclaim the message around its products from Apple and is doing so with the "I'm a PC" ad, which will start in heavy rotation on U.S. television tonight. Shorter versions will appear across the Internet as part of a "very significant" online buy.

"We need to be out telling our story to our customers," Veghte said. "These are Windows customers telling the story of what Windows represents. ...

"Windows is about all sizes and shapes of different PCs and devices and software applications, and so to the extent that Windows is inclusive, that is something we want to make sure people understand. It's not a stereotype. It's an inclusive set of experiences that celebrate and support diversity and individuality and choice."

Starting this afternoon on, people will be able to upload their own "I'm a PC" testimonials, which will be incorporated into other parts of the campaign, including a video billboard in Times Square in New York City.

"The whole approach is very dynamic and viral," Veghte said. "... The celebrities we use today will certainly evolve as we go forward."

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld does not appear in this part of the campaign. Eric Hollreiser, a company spokesman, said "that doesn't mean you won't see him in the future."

There was some speculation yesterday that the perplexing Seinfeld ads were pulled because of unfavorable response. Regardless of how they were received, they managed to build tremendous buzz around the campaign. And Microsoft said from the outset that it planned the Seinfeld ads as an introduction -- given that it has not done much mass market consumer advertising since the launch of Windows Vista in early 2007 -- to be followed by more concrete messaging.

(You also won't see Seinfeld at today's Microsoft company meeting, which begins at 11 a.m. at Safeco Field -- and is closed to the public. Microsoft tapped Rainn Wilson of "The Office" to emcee the annual event, which Bill Gates will not attend for the first time in recent memory.)

To hammer home the "Life without Walls" tag line, Microsoft also launched a flurry of print ads featuring a Windows "Manifesto," which Veghte described as a document used internally "quite a bit." (It appeared in a two-page spread in the A section of The Seattle Times.) It carries the heading "Windows VS Walls" -- a not-so-veiled reference to the closed system of Apple, which makes hardware and operating system software.

The manifesto, printed next to a picture of a guy who has just cut a Windows-logo-shaped window through the wall of a house with a sawzall, reads:

"This epic struggle explains why we make what we make and do what we do. The thing that gets us out of bed every day is the prospect of creating pathways above, below, around and through walls. To start a dialogue between hundreds of devices, billions of people and a world of ideas.

To lift up the smallest of us. And catapult the most audacious of us. But, most importantly, to connect all of us to the four corners of our own digital lives and to each other. To go on doing the little stuff, the big stuff, the crazy stuff and that ridiculously necessary stuff. On our own or together.

This is more than software we're talking about. It's an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way ... of life.

Today, more than one billion people worldwide have Windows. Which is just another way of saying we have each other."

Other print ads will highlight Windows across a range of outlets, from the PC, to mobile devices to the Web.

Stuart Elliott, advertising writer for The New York Times, has an interesting piece analyzing the success of the Windows campaign so far and the risks and rewards of countering a rival's attacks.

What do you think of this next installment in the campaign?

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September 4, 2008 7:15 PM

Windows ad has funny reference to Gates' past

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There's at least one coy reference to a youthful indiscretion of Bill Gates' past in the new and perplexing Windows ad that debuted Thursday night.

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June 27, 2008 3:52 PM

Gates send-off: Gates has had Ballmer's back from the beginning

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I wrote earlier today about Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer meeting at Harvard and going to a double feature of "Singin' in the Rain," staring Gene Kelly, and "Clockwork Orange." But has anyone heard the story of the physical altercation that occurred afterwards?

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June 27, 2008 11:18 AM

Gates send-off: Teary Bill Gates says goodbye to Microsoft employees

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

An emotional Bill Gates said good-bye to Microsoft in a celebration this morning filled with gauzy memories and a candid assessment of his legacy.

"My life's work really is about software and working with incredible people," Gates said with tears in his eyes. "And I love working with smart people. I love working with Steve. I love working with all the incredible people here."

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June 27, 2008 8:30 AM

Gates send-off: Employees won lottery to see Gates go

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Outside of Microsoft's corporate conference center, employees are lined up to see their leader say goodbye. Only 832 will be inside to watch the send-off conversation between Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Thousands of employees entered a lottery for tickets to be here.

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May 27, 2008 3:23 PM

Gates to tease with Windows 7 features tonight

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Google , Personalities , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy , Windows 7 , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 14, 2008 8:30 AM

Gates looks to the future with top CEOs, unveils 'Touch Wall'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates conceived of the CEO Summit 12 years ago as an exclusive forum to discuss technology and other issues worrying the business world's elite. It's also an excellent sales opportunity for Microsoft. This year's event kicked off last night at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Devices , Hardware , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 7, 2008 11:44 AM

Video: Gates and Buffett on Fox

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Following this post, which highlighted excerpts from the interview Fox Business News scored with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett earlier this week, here's a video segment.

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May 5, 2008 2:18 PM

Buffett and Gates talk business

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A day after Berkshire Hathaway's shareholder meeting, billionaire buddies Warren Buffett, Berkshire's chairman, and Bill Gates, a Berkshire director, were interviewed today on Fox Business Channel. Here's a short story summarizing the conversation, and here are some interesting excerpts from a transcript provided by the Fox Business Network.

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March 28, 2008 4:15 PM

'White space' demonstration device, backed by Microsoft, breaks a third time

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's "white spaces" demonstration device is broken. For the third time.

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March 28, 2008 12:05 PM

Microsoft in China, then and now

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There are a couple of interesting articles out today about Microsoft's relationship with China, past and future.

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March 11, 2008 1:50 PM

Mr. Gates goes to Washington as Microsoft gets more H-1Bs than any U.S. tech

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday morning in what is likely his last appearance on Capitol Hill as a full-timer at the company he co-founded.


Bill Gates, right, talks to Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Patty Murray in this March 2007 photo.

As he did just more than a year ago, Gates is expected to press Congress on the need to raise the cap on H-1B visas and improve the quality of U.S. high school graduates -- particularly in math and science. (Update, 9:40 a.m., Wednesday: Here's Gates written testimony, a 20-page PDF. Excerpts after the jump.)

BusinessWeek, having reviewed the latest H-1B numbers, reports that "Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80 percent of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program." Only two "traditional U.S. tech companies" are among the top 10 participants. Can you guess who?

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Microsoft , Recruiting , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 3, 2008 10:24 AM

Gates swipes at Google Apps, stays mum on presidential race, comments on Yahoo

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, taking questions from the audience at his company's SharePoint conference in Seattle this morning, was asked how Google Sites competes with Microsoft's new SharePoint Services. It's an issue I covered in this story.

He lauded Google's Internet search, but said its online offerings that compete with Microsoft's own productivity applications such as Office and SharePoint don't have the richness or responsiveness that businesses demand. He also suggested that Google has been able to make big marketing splashes for its Apps products, but has had little market penetration.

"The day they announce them is their best day," Gates said, adding, "I might be biased."

Asked who he's backing for president, Gates pointed people to, an effort he has helped fund to get candidates to state their positions on global healh.

"I'm not making any particular public comment beyond that," Gates said.

He was also asked whether a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo would have any impact on SharePoint. His answer, not really. The acquisition proposal reflects how serious the company is about consumer search, he said.

Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Google , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 3, 2008 9:30 AM

Gates reprises 'Last Day' video

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is getting more mileage from the star-studded spoof video of Bill Gates' "Last Day" at work, which debuted to big laughs at his Consumer Electronics Show keynote and has since been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the Internet.

Gates paused his keynote at Microsoft's SharePoint conference in Seattle this morning to show it again, with new footage and a cameo from billionaire buddy Warren Buffett, who gave Gates some work space in a Dairy Queen (I think it was a DQ) to hold a meeting on global health. (How tempting it must have been to set that scene in a Hooters.)

The global-health message was more prominent in "Bill's Last Day Redux." In an early scene of Gates working out with Matthew McConaughey, for example, the buff movie star is holding a heavy punching bag and urges Gates on with shouts of, "I am tuberculosis!" Gates finishes off with a head butt.

Still scored hearty laughs.

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