I've rarely been kind to Bill Gates. But, of course, Microsoft, Gates' company, has never had much time for kindness. In its heyday, fear and doubt were its chief goods; the company scared its competitors, bullied its customers, and generally sought to rig the game in its favor.
But Bill Gates' final address to the Consumer Electronics Show this weekend got me feeling all warm about the fellow. This summer Gates will leave Microsoft as a full-time employee. He will begin working, instead, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates will remain chairman of Microsoft). He has spoken at CES and other Las Vegas tech shows for decades; this was his swan song.
As a tech presentation, there wasn't much to it. Gates talked about the company's online services -- still not up to par with Google's -- as well as its Surface desk-size computer, and some new XBox offerings. Nothing that will knock your socks off.
But then Gates slipped into comic mode, and the crowd went wild. He'd cooked up a video to spoof his last days on the job. In it Gates bugs Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Jay-Z and other celebs for work.
This sounds like one of those ideas that's funnier in theory than in execution, but Gates was actually hilarious in this. He looks like he could do a great Woody Allen impression (or at least as good as Kenneth Branagh's in "Celebrity").
It was a classy way to go out (Gizmodo says the video makes Gates look cooler than Steve Jobs, which could be right).
But also, it prompts a question: What will the tech world do without Bill Gates? The man built the modern computing industry (for better and worse). He's going on to better things -- far better things -- but he will be missed.
You can stream a high-quality version of Gates' keynote here (Windows Media format only, of course). The parody begins at 10:35.
Up above, I've posted a so-so quality YouTube clip of the parody; scroll to the 1-minute mark.