Tag: Bill Gates

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 10 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

 

By the end of 1980s, Digital Research had entered a death spiral and Kildall wave the white flag of surrender. He approached Gates and asked him to consider buying Digital Research for a fair price of $26 million. Gates rejected the offer and told Kildall the company might be worth only $10 million. A humbled Kildall had to look elsewhere to find a savior for his declining company.

Kildall’s hubris may be the culprit. Having fathered a revolution in personal computing, he assumed that all the other players would continue their childlike dependency on him. He thought that a dominant thing would always be dominant. Kildall was blind to how the delayed release of CP/M-86 had pushed IBM, Microsoft,and Seattle Computer Products to their breaking points.

He couldn’t imagine that all three companies might work around him to steal CP/M’s market. The irony is that the people at all three companies would have preferred to help Kildall and CP/M-86 succeed. Instead, they were forced to go to the extreme lengths of launching a competitor to CP/M-86, solely because Kildall left them no choice.

Kildall’s more fundamental mistake, however is he didn’t follow where the money is like Bill Gates. Kildall ridiculed IBM’s clumsy technology and overlooked its enormous market power, probably because technical subjects interested Kildall and marketing strategy didn’t.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates sets his priorities in exact opposite order. He was willing to hand IBM a shoddy product derived from other people’s work because what mattered most to Gates was that the mighty IBM get its project done on time.

Kildall, the innovator, followed his passion for technical excellence and was shocked at that IBM wouldn’t follow him. Gates, the imitator, took his cues from IBM every step of the way, because he believed that following IBM was the smartest way to follow where the money is. Gates guessed right, and became one of the richest in the world.

 

— end —

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Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 9 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, and Part 8.

 

When IBM’s programmers tried to run MS DOS on their prototype IBM PCs, they could hardly believe how buggy it was. By one count Microsoft had left at least 300 bugs in the software, and IBM eventually chose to rewrite the entire program. But Gates delivered on time, which kept the entire IBM PC project on schedule. The new IBM PC made its debut in August 1981, accompanied by a massive computer industry had never seen.

It took only a few years for Big Blue’s new desktop machines to take over the entire PC market. By 1983, two out of every three new home computers were made by IBM and were running the MS DOS operating system.

When Kildall got his first look at the IBM PC, he was enraged. He felt that MS DOS was nothing more than a crude clone of CP/M and that Gates stabbed him in the back. But he never sue IBM and Microsoft, partly because software copyrights were a hazy area of the law, but also he was so confident of CP/M-86’s superiority.

Once that CP/M-86 was ready for release in early 1982, Kildall was certain that most computer users would switch over from MS DOS. That’s not what happened. CP/M-86 did prove to be a better and more reliable operating system, but it was also more expensive.

Then IBM cautioned PC buyers that it would only offer technical support for computers running MS DOS. In no time at all, Microsoft displaced Digital Research as maker of the industry standard in operating systems. Software companies responded to IBM’s growing market dominance by pouring their resources into new applications for subsequent revisions of MS DOS. They also stopped bothering to upgrade their existing CP/M-compatible products.

 

Continue reading the last part here.

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 8 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

 

In the summer of 1980, Sams told Gates that Kildall wasn’t working out, and that the operating system issue was now Gates’ problem to solve. Gates picked up Kildall’s mess and rant with it. He gave Sams the promise that Kildall would not, he (Gates) would produce a detailed plan for an operating system by October. The only difference was that Gates promise without having an actual operating system to work with.

Throughout the 1980, Kildall’s failure to set a hard release date for CP/M-86 fueled a rising sense of panic among manufacturers who needed the operating system for their new 8086 machines. In effect, Kildall’s delays were holding the whole industry hostage.

Across town from Microsoft, a little computer maker called SCP (Seattle Computer Products), came up with a stopgap solution. A programmer there spent months working from the CP/M technical manual to write a new operating system so similar to CP/M that would allow all CP/M-compatible software to work on the new 8086 machines. He called the operating system QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System). SCP’s computers will use QDOS until CP/M-86 was released.

When gates and Allen heard about QDOS, they figured they might be able to meet IBM’s tight schedule by buying QDOS and then giving it a spit-shine and a new name. Allen knew the owner of SCP fairly well, and he negotiated the rights for Microsoft to use QDOS for the grand sum of $25,000.

The cash-starved owner at SCP took the money gladly, with no idea that IBM would be QDOS’s ultimate customer. It took several months of around-the-clock programming to massage, tweak, and test QDOS before Microsoft presented a finished product to IBM engineers under its new name: MS DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System).

 

Continue reading Part 9 and Part 10.

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 7 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

 

Once they got pass the hurdle, Kildall was cold to IBM’s insistence that Digital Research negotiate a flat licensing fee for CP/M and forgo Digital Research’s usual per unit royalty rate. It didn’t help matters that Kildall was generally disapproving of IBM because so many IBM products struck him as slow, unimaginative and clumsily designed.

But the biggest stumbling block preventing a deal was Kildall’s timing, or rather, his utter disregard for timing. IBM planned to build its personal computer around a new, faster Intel Chip called the 8086, but CP/M would need an upgrade in order to run on it.

Kildall already had such an upgrade in the works, called CP/M-86. But Kildall either wouldn’t guarantee to Sams that it would be delivered enough to meet IBM’s development deadlines.

Sams tried to explain that IBM needed a schedule and a commitment by October 1980, but Kildall resisted. Perhaps Kildall assumed that IBM would bend to his schedule, since it appeared that IBM needed him and CP/M’s 90% market share more than he needed IBM.

But what Sams gathered from Kildall’s attitude was that Kildall would never be a reliable partner and that the IBM PC project needed an alternative plan for an operating system.

Not long after, he stopped returning Kildall’s calls. Kildall’s fate was sealed forever as “the man who could have been Bill Gates.”

By giving up on Kildall and CP/M, Sams put himself in a tight spot. But Sams also knew that Gates, more than anyone, would be highly motivated to help him find a way out. During the time that Kildall was giving Sams a runaround over royalties and deadlines, Gates was back in Seattle bending over backward to accommodate IBM’s development schedule.

He had put almost Microsoft’s personnel to work on the IBM effort, shoving other projects to the side. Now Gates needed IBM PC project to succeed, if only out of a sense of survival of Microsoft.

 

Continue reading Part 8Part 9, and Part 10.

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 6 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

 

Even though the Softcard was a slight diversion from Microsoft’s normal focus on computer language software, Gates embraced it because it represented yet another strategic opportunity to extend CP/M’s market domination while also binding Microsoft BASIC to CP/M. Microsoft eventually sold hundreds of thousands of Softcards, which told Sams that it was a popular and reliable product.

Sams started his software hunt by contacting Gates and proposing IBM license the Softcard, along with all other programming languages Microsoft offered.

What Sams didn’t understand was that although Softcard was a Microsoft product, its most valuable feature was the CP/M operating system, owned by Digital Research. Gates told Sams that IBM needed to license CP/M directly from Kildall and offered to help Sams make the deal happen.

At the time, Gates accepted his subordinate position in the software food chain. He had positioned Microsoft so that the company’s success was dependent on CP/M’s continued market domination. If CP/M were paired with Microsoft BASIC inside the new IBM PC, Gates saw how the two complementary programs might be inseparable as industry leaders for years to come.

Gates arranged the initial meeting with IBM and Kildall. With Sams in the room, Gates called Kildall and said he was sending an important client and that Kildall should, according to sources, “treat them right.”

Gates’ phone call, however didn’t do much good. Almost nothing went right when Sams and his team sat down with Kildall and his wife Dorothy, who managed the business side of Digital Research. At first, Dorothy absolutely refused to sign IBM’s strict, strongly worded confidentiality agreement. An entire day wasted discussing what, if anything, the two parties could discuss.

 

Continue reading Part 7Part 8Part 9 and Part 10.