Billy we hardly knew ye

Only 20 per cent of Bill Gates to kick around now.

It feels strange writing this, I won't have Bill Gates to kick around anymore. (Or, given that he still plans to visit the Redmond campus once a week, I'll only have 20 per cent of him to kick around.) Of all the tech targets I've pummeled over the years, the world's third richest man easily commands the pole position.

There's certainly been no shortage of tributes and memorials, some snarkier than others. Dan Tynan captured Gates' 10 most memorable moments, including some he'd like to forget. Josh Quitner's professional obit for Gates in Time magazine is titled "PC Genius, Internet Fool." (Oh, snap!) In India, where Gates is apparently better liked -- possibly due to employing half of Bangalore in one of Microsoft's many offshore operations -- his farewell is titled "A Jolly Good Fella!". (Sir Bill, jolly? That's a new one.) Galen Gruman takes a more sober look at what the Post-Gates Microsoft might look like.

It's true that Gates doesn't matter the way he used to, just like Microsoft doesn't matter the way it used to, though like an aging great white shark it still can still deliver a nasty bite. As we move more into the mobile always-on world and away from static desktops it will matter less and less.

(Personally, I think the worst thing that ever happened to Microsoft was having an appeals court nullify the order to split the company in two back in 2001. Really, Microsoft should be 4 or 5 companies -- separate entities for the OS, applications, Web, mobile, and enterprise. I think we'd start to see actual innovation coming out of Redmond again, instead of the stuff you get out of a can. Wake me when that happens.)

But it's not just Gates. Aside from The Mad Ballmer it seems all my old targets have gone to ground. You hardly hear a peep out of Larry Ellison these days, though Oracle's appetite for acquisition hasn't waned. Darl McBride seems to have crawled back under a rock, with only SCO's delusions of patent grandeur to keep him warm. Steve Jobs is hanging tough, of course, but did you see how scrawny he looked at the last keynote? It seems almost unfair to pick on him in his wizened state. And isn't Carly Fiorina on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and that ditzy blonde chick?

So what are we left with? Plucky Zucky, the Google Twins, Yahoo's Jerry Yang (who is so boring I can't even make a joke about him), and a lot of Web 2.0-wannabees. Unspeakably dull, the lot of them. So I've got to say I'm going to miss Sir Bill. With all his bluster, bloviation, and blindness, he was a more than worthy adversary.

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Robert X. Cringely

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