Bill Gates in the summer of 1998 (from the same brilliant joint-inteview with Warren Buffett that I keep linking to):

Sometimes we do get taken by surprise. For example, when the Internet came along, we had it as a fifth or sixth priority. It wasn’t like somebody told me about it and I said, “I don’t know how to spell that.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve got that on my list, so I’m okay.” But there came a point when we realized it was happening faster and was a much deeper phenomenon than had been recognized in our strategy. So as an act of leadership I had to create a sense of crisis, and we spent a couple of months throwing ideas and E-mail around, and we went on some retreats. Eventually a new strategy coalesced, and we said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do; here’s how we’re going to measure ourselves internally; and here’s what the world should think about what we’re going to do.”

That kind of crisis is going to come up every three or four years. You have to listen carefully to all the smart people in the company. That’s why a company like ours has to attract a lot of people who think in different ways, it has to allow a lot of dissent, and then it has to recognize the right ideas and put some real energy behind them.

The first bit is important because it shows that disruption doesn’t always completely blindside those in power. Often times it’s just a matter of something happening far quicker than an incumbent realizes.

A great example of this with Microsoft isn’t just the internet as Gates describes above, but smartphones. Microsoft had Windows Mobile in prime position, but it wasn’t quite the “right idea” as Gates puts it. And once they realized that and came around to the right idea, it was far too late.

I think the multiples of technology stocks should be quite a bit lower than the multiples of stocks like Coke and Gillette, because we are subject to complete changes in the rules. I know very well that in the next ten years, if Microsoft is still a leader, we will have had to weather at least three crises.

Bill Gates, in a joint-interview with Warren Buffett, in the summer of 1998 — before the Bubble burst, of course.

The whole interview is pure gold.

[via @ElliotTurn]

Michael J. De La Merced and Bill Carter talking to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts:

Mr. Roberts recalled that when Bill Gates invested $1 billion in his company in 1997, the Microsoft billionaire told him that data would be a bigger business than video one day.

“I didn’t know what he was talking about then, but he was right,” Mr. Roberts said.

Three things:

1) Bill Gates invested $1 billion into Comcast in 1997?! Yep. He did. (That $1 billion gave Microsoft an 11.5% stake in Comcast at the time. That stake would be worth something like $15 billion today, but the company sold the stake in 2008.)

2) The Comcast investment was right before Gates invested $150 million into Apple, seemingly on its deathbed.

3) Bill Gates is a genius with impeccable timing.

Mary Jo Foley:

The extension of the Windows 7 Pro preload-cutoff date is not related to the looming end-of-support date for Windows XP, said Shad Larsen, senior business program manager, Windows business planning team. Nor is it because of business-customer reticence to adopt Windows 8, Larsen insisted.

Instead, Larsen said that because Windows 7 remains the largest part of Microsoft’s installed base and is still in the midst of being deployed by business customers, Microsoft wants to make it easy and possible for businesses to continue to obtain it.

Those logic gap in those two paragraphs is hilarious. Microsoft is not extending the life of Windows 7 because of customer reticence to adopt Windows 8 — but rather it’s because Windows 7 remains the largest part of the business install base. But wait. Why is that? Because no one in their right mind wants a business machine that runs Windows 8!

Nothing to see here. Nothing at all.



House of Cards Against Humanity

On Monday we quietly announced and sold out of a little pack of cards we made for Netflix to promote the new season of House of Cards, which comes out on February 14th.

This was a weird project, even by our standards. Here’s how it happened.

Basically this entire post is amazing. They’re essentially giving Netflix the finger, but pretending they’re saying “you’re number one!”

And they apparently got paid an (undisclosed) obscene amount of money to do this — which they then used to make a donation of “more than $49,999 and less than $50,001” (since legal will not allow them to state specific terms).

Also interesting: apparently both HBO and Microsoft have tried to work with the Cards Against Humanity crew in the past, but pissed them off so much that the guys quit each time. Fucking love these guys.

Brian Womack:

Google, which became the world’s largest online advertiser through its dominant search engine, had a higher market capitalization during intraday trading today before falling back at the close in New York to a value of $395.4 billion compared to Exxon’s $395.7 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Apple had a market value of $463.5 billion. Software company Microsoft Corp. is No. 4 with $303.5 billion.

Technology companies are establishing themselves as key players worldwide as they disrupt industries from retail to finance. Google, which went public in 2004 — 84 years after Exxon — has benefited from consumers moving to online services and content, a trend that’s being accelerated by the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets.

I suspect we’ll see quite a few more tech companies ahead of Exxon in the coming years. Progress.

Excel: The Last Microsoft Office Stronghold

There was a good, brief discussion on Twitter tonight about Microsoft Office. Specifically, the fact that it’s 2014, so why the hell is anyone still using it?

To be clear, I know that a lot of people have to use it in their work environment. But that’s more because their office buys it for them and forces them to. It’s a strong method of lock-in that is seemingly still going strong after all these years.

The reality is that there are now more than enough solid-to-better alternatives for much of what Office offers. And some, like Google Docs and now even the Apple iWork suite, are free.1 And so it seems to me that increasingly, Office persists more out of habit (“I don’t know how to do this without Office”) and misguided fear (“what if I need Office for some reason?”) than necessity.

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Andy Borowitz:

After failing to install the upgrade by lunchtime, Mr. Gates summoned the new Microsoft C.E.O. Satya Nadella, who attempted to help him with the installation, but with no success.

While the two men worked behind closed doors, one source described the situation as “tense.”

“Bill is usually a pretty calm guy, so it was weird to hear some of that language coming out of his mouth,” the source said.

A Microsoft spokesman said only that Mr. Gates’s first day in his new job had been “a learning experience” and that, for the immediate future, he would go back to running Windows 7.

So good.

The Abbreviated Honeymoon Of The New Microsoft CEO

The honeymoon is on. Microsoft finally announced a new CEO yesterday: Satya Nadella. And the blogosphere seemingly could not be more pleased.

And I have to admit, reading all the coverage, Nadella sounds like the right choice. He knows Microsoft. He was leading the one division inside the company without question marks. He knows his tech. And everyone seems to like him.

But all of this overlooks the obvious question: if he seems like such a slam dunk, why wasn’t he?

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Ian Sherr:

Microsoft has purchased the rights to the hit videogame series, “Gears of War,” ensuring the popular franchise remains exclusive to its Xbox One console.

I suspect we’ll see a lot more of this. How do you move consoles? With exclusive content. Microsoft and Sony are about to enter a similar ground war to the one Netflix and Amazon are engulfed in on the video side of things.

Mary Jo Foley:

Currently, consumers who want to use the free, Webified versions of Microsoft’s core Office apps — the suite known as “Office Web Apps” — need to know to go to SkyDrive and click on the “Create” tab to find Word Web App, Excel Web App, PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App. It’s not intuitive by any stretch.

No, no it’s not. I think the move to “Office Online” would be smart. OneDrive? Total meh.