The fascination with Bill Gates comes from two sources: first, he’s the world’s richest man. The first time I met him, he was just “the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.” But for several years now, he’s stood on top of the world, outstripping the legendary modern Croesuses like the Sultan of Brunei.
Photo by Tom Hanson/Canadian Press; courtesy CBC.ca
It’s understandable that he draws crowds for that reason, alone. Everyone wants to catch some of the glow from that kind of treasure. We listen to his pronouncements, hoping to learn some clues that will help us amass our own riches.
But Gates would also command attention, without his wealth, because of his role as the head of Microsoft. Few other companies have had such a profound impact on our jobs, lives, culture, as Microsoft. (It’s hard to imagine Gates heading a company with as pervasive a reach and profound an impact as Microsoft without amassing such a fortune.)
So it’s heartening to know that Gates is now putting his intelligence and considerable star power to noble goals such as fighting AIDS and helping Africa out of its many plights. What’s going to be interesting from a communications perspective is noting what the population takes from his “farewell tour.” People accepted his predictions about the impact of computers — well, some of them, anyway. The world has bought his software.
Not only that, media has paid Gates a lot of attention whenever he’s launched new software and talked about what computers will do in the future. Now that he’s headed in a direction that’s much more difficult to follow, will the spotlight linger?