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2011: The year of Bill Gates Bashing

2011 has been the year of Bill Gates bashing
– To his credit, Bill has handled it all in strideBy Oregon Small Business Association

From government criticisms to former co-workers, 2011 was a year full of unusually sharp and personal criticism of Bill Gates.

First of all, Governing Magazine ran a front page cover story about billionaires meddling in the classroom with the photo of a sneaky Bill Gates peering from the corner. The article represented a teacher backlash to Gates’ $400 million annually worth of education initiatives . In fact, the Gates Foundation devotes $75 million to policy-related advocacy, a significant figure for a “philanthropic” organization and one that enables Gates to wield influence in nearly every major area of education policy. One critic said that top officials in the U.S Department of Education have become so influenced by Gates that “it’s not too great a stretch to say that the Gates Foundation is, in effect, running the Department of Education.”

Also, this year saw the biography release of Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs, who did not withhold back any of his criticisms challenging his creativity and his ethics. “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy.” Perhaps to compensate for his own limitations, Gates, said Jobs, “just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
One could perhaps chalk Jobs’ estimation of Gates up to a casualty of healthy competition—the battle of ideas and wills in the pursuit of market dominance. After Apple popularized the personal computer in the mid-to-late 1970s, Microsoft quickly entered the personal computer marketplace. Teaming up with IBM hardware, its Windows platform enjoyed near total market dominance for decades.

The Gates criticism closest to home came from long-time friend and Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen who published an autobiography. Allen accused Gates of scheming against his interest in Microsoft during a personal health crisis.

Allen and Gates became friends in high school and eventually attended Harvard together. During college, they teamed up to create Microsoft. Because Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote full-time to the new company, Allen agreed to be the junior partner and accepted 36 percent ownership to Gates 64 percent.
Sometime in 1982, Allen overheard a conversation between Gates and current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during which Gates complained of Allen’s recent lack of production and hatched plans to undermine his interest. That conversation took place shortly after Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma—a life threatening form of cancer.

For his part, Gates has his own opinions of both Jobs’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as Allen’s interpretation of events in 1982. As for controlling how his $400 million in education funding is being spent, Gates understands how quickly enormous amounts of education dollars can be wasted.

Criticism or no criticism, Bill Gates will continue to wield power and influence for years to come. Some of those years will likely be kinder to him than 2011.

In the Fall, he was on the front page of Forbes magazine for their profile on the world’s most powerful people. The interview highlighted the positive influence his charity has had on other charities around the world. That may well be the enduring legacy of Bill Gates.