News.com and the New Yorker, covering various sides of philanthropy, have revealed how much a player Bill and Medlinda Gates and their Foundation are in the field:
According to a recent New Yorker story on The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, most of its nearly $29 billion endowment is dedicated to ridding the world of diseases that affect poor and therefore neglected people. Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has spent $6 billion on Third World health, more than any other charity and almost every contributing nation combined.
And most recently, the Gates Foundation has just added $258 million to more intensive work on malaria:
The largest of the grants, $107.6 million, would go to a vaccine initiative working with GlaxoSmithKline on late-stage clinical trials of its experimental vaccine, Mosquirix. The vaccine had already produced promising results in clinical trials but will not be available until after 2010. Another $100 million would be directed into work to accelerate the development of several promising new drugs, while $50.7 million would pay for research to fast-track development of improved insecticides and other mosquito control methods.
And the Seattle Times has shown how carefully researched this philanthropic work is:
This week, Allen and Gates will join other international heavyweights from business, politics and science at a global health summit sponsored by the Gates Foundation and hosted by Time Magazine. The event, which is tied to the debut of Allens new documentary series on PBS, is the latest step in the Northwest duos effort to eradicate disease from the planet.
Let there be no doubt that Bill Gates philanthropy is not only substantial but also well researched and targetted.
But as an observer of the computing scene, I would wish that some sense of import and philanthropy would extend to the IT World where Bill and company have engaged in punishing, non-philanthropic behaviour. And in fact , in stark contrast to his Foundations work, it is darkly Machiavellian and dysfunctionally monopolistic.
If you have been here before you know about the zero-sum tactics and current bundling with zero pricing. On November 7, with the final announcement of SQL Server 2005 – Bill and company will likely set zero or near zero pricing for a complete Stack of BI programs, putting several of his one-time business partners in jeopardy. The same treatment is likely to befall the anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam security providers who took a lot of the heat off of Microsoft just 2-3 short years ago. Ditto in the new year for CRM, Accounting and Content Management providers. And then 2-4 years hence, if the competition has been elminated, Bill and company will unbundle very discreetly – citing new emerging markets and suddenly start charging for what previously was given for free or nearly so.
Now just as Bills true philanthropy has stimulated great complimentary and positive side effects in world philanthropy and world health; so also has his cut-throat tactics in software has had equivalent negative effects – drying up VC capital, prematurely closing down markets (think Pen computing), forcing competitors into Open Source mode to break into or sustain markets -> beating Microsoft by removing Billss zero pricing advantage and taking Bill on in his Eula weak spots of support, services, training and sustained quality innovation.
What – “sustained quality innovation”? Well consider what happened for 4-5 years with IE (nothing – no new features whatsoever), Office from 95 through to now (marginal improvements, generally bloatware), and Windows on the desktop (need I say Win 95, 98, ME). In contrast check the record of the Apache Group, Eclipse Foundation, MySQL, Linux, JBoss, PHP and many other major Open Source providers – sustained innovation which Bill seems to think must have a price so that he can undercut it.
Bottom line as good as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been to world health care; Bill and Microsoft have been a blight on the IT industry, innovation, and vigorous markets. There is clearly a schizophrenic character to leadership by Bill, and it certainly has effected the Zetgeist and morale of his company and workers. Its almost as if one had to Beware the Geek bearing Gifts.