Bill Gates to remain full-time philanthropist, full-time Windows user

Microsoft founder characterizes Steve Jobs as brilliant, but bitter over Windows success

It turns out that a random CEO who knows a guy who knows Bill Gates wasn't the best source of information about the Microsoft founder's career plans. Fortune magazine earlier this month dangled the prospect that Gates was contemplating returning to the helm of the Redmond giant -- a scenario InfoWorld joked about earlier this year.

Fortune's tidbit was drawn from the words of "one prominent chief executive [who] told Fortune he'd heard from someone close to Gates that he might be considering such a move," but they proved compelling enough for Australia-based Fairfax Media to invest limited interview time with Gates to discuss the issue.

Well, turns out that Gates isn't giving up his full-time philanthropist career leading the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as he continues his nondescript part-time duties as Microsoft's non-executive chairman. "I made the transition to work full-time on the foundation, and that will be what I do for the rest of my life. I'm part-time involved at Microsoft, including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice. But that's not going to change," he said.

Gates used the rest of the five-minute interview to reaffirm his commitment not just to philanthropy, but to using Microsoft products. And, of course, he fielded an inevitable question regarding comments attributed to Steve Jobs, who passed away in August.

Specifically, the interviewed noted that Jobs had described Gates as a better philanthropist than software developer (the Apple founder actually had uttered far harsher words about his one-time rival). Gates responded with kind words for Jobs, though he did slip in a subtle accusation of sour grapes.

"Certainly Steve was brilliant, and I enjoyed working with him on Mac software. I enjoyed competing with him," Gates said. "Because Microsoft machines outsold his machines by a lot, he was always kind of tough on Microsoft. You know, that's fine. Our work at Microsoft was supersuccessful for all good reasons, but Steve made huge contributions. In his last few years, he was a lot kinder than that."

Microsoft has fallen far behind in the mobile races, a point that the interviewer didn't address directly. He did, however, ask Gates, who reportedly banned Apple products from his home back in 2009, if he was an iPhone user. Nope, said Gates: "There's a fantastic Windows phone I happen to use," he said, along with "fantastic Windows devices for all kinds of things."

Gates insisted, in fact, that he is "the most avid Microsoft user you'll meet."

This story, "Bill Gates to remain full-time philanthropist, full-time Windows user," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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