Is Bill Gates a cheat?

For the past years, basking in the after-glow of his philanthropic efforts, one can almost spot a small radiant halo surrounding Bill Gates head. Through his, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the software czar has pledged to donate half his assets to charity and is very much living up to that claim. He has already spent billions in research on AIDS, education and had pledged that he will eradicate Malaria globally. Speaking purely in corporate parlance, Bill Gates has been beatified. And his transition from a scheming, wily Billionaire to that of Saint Gates, has been truly remarkable.

But now, there is a big boulder has been hurled at that carefully crafted image by none other than one-time friend, and ex co-founder Paul Allen in his soon to be published memoir, “The Ideaman, a memoir by the co-founder of Microsoft”. Recalling those early days when the company was founded, Allen makes some damning allegations against Gates, who apparently not only cheated him of his ‘fair share’ but also was keen to upstage Allen during his weakest period in life, when he was afflicted by Hodgkin’s disease.

The not-so charitable side

The biggest grouse that Allen still holds against is his former partner at Microsoft is not surprisingly related to the way things shaped up when the company was established back in 1975. Recalling those heady days Allen touches upon his partnership with Gates when they first met at Seattle’s Lakeside School in 1968. Talking about his first impressions, Allen terms Gates as a “gangly, freckle-faced eighth-grader edging his way into the crowd around the Teletype, all arms and legs and nervous energy. He had a scruffy-preppy look: pullover sweater, tan slacks, enormous saddle shoes. His blond hair went all over the place.”

It is obvious that with his skills with the Teletype (the shared computer at their school) much impressed Allen, who further states that, “You could tell three things about Bill Gates pretty quickly. He was really smart. He was really competitive; he wanted to show you how smart he was. And he was really, really persistent. After that first time, he kept coming back. Many times he and I would be the only ones there.”

Over the next few years, destiny would bring the two together and they both went on to create Micro-Soft. But once, the company was established and set, the disconnect occurred. The difference in both their personalities made them drift further and further apart. While Allen was the philosophical, do-no evil sort of technologist, Gates was the demanding maniacal boss, who would be livid at a programmer asking for a day off, after working 81 hours in 4-days. “Some said Bill’s management style was a key ingredient in Microsoft’s early success. But that made no sense to me,” he states. Continue reading

Open Vs Proprietary: The War is still On

No sooner had I put up innocuous query on LinkedIn asking respondents whether open source is cheaper than proprietary software, responses to the same started flowing in. Experts and professionals from around the globe started debating the issue on the forum. Some were die-hard open source proponents arguing about all the good that is there in those lines of code written by the developer ilk. On the other hand, there were the pragmatists that argued against and prescribed more practical approach that could only be possible through the use of proprietary or as a few called it, closed systems.

The age old war between the two technologies, namely, open source and proprietary software is still very much on. Like the proverbial good versus evil clash, everyone was eager to paint the other as evil. Lost somewhere in translation is the real issue, namely which of the two is cheaper, secure, easier to maintain, etc. The question we really need to tackle is not a philosophical one, i.e., what is good or what is evil but simply which is preferable and which is not. So here is a primer on what is what.

Apples & oranges?

One of the issues that lot many experts often raise and rail about is when the two, namely open source and proprietary are comparable at all.  The way the two have emerged and evolved is the reason for it. While, open source has been around for many decades, thanks to the mainframe legacy, where in the computer belonged to the technologist. Hence, a breed of technologists emerged who believed in technology for the sake of technology. Meanwhile, the proprietary software, one can say is of recent emergence especially since the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen started peddling software developed by others for profit, and so was Microsoft and proprietary software born. Since, the past three decades, the war between the two has continued ever since. Continue reading