Asfrom full-time work at Microsoft, well-wishing cheers and not-so-nice jeers are echoing from Silicon Valley. After 32 years of competition and acquisition, Gates managed to ruffle some feathers, while still making some famous friends. After the end of this month, Gates plans to spend only 20 percent of his time as a Microsoft chairman. The rest of his time will be devoted to the Gates Foundation and other pet projects.
Now tech company CEOs, founders, and presidents are bidding farewell to Gates and the legacy he created at Microsoft. They'll do it with a crack at his dancing skills or a quip about him stealing their dates, but many will still give him credit for three decades spent changing business in the technology world.
Others have high hopes that he will continue to change the world through his foundation, while some are just breathing a sigh of relief that his bullying days are over. Here's what they had to say about Gates' career and future:
"I wish him good luck. I think he is a very smart guy. It will be nice not to have him beating up on me, but I'm glad he is doing something good. I think he has a big job ahead of him. I prefer to see him spend the foundation's money than leave it to the next guy. I've got to believe that founding entrepreneurs must roll in their graves when they see how people spend their money unsupervised after they're gone."
When asked if he will miss Bill Gates, he said:
"I don't get paid to have feelings. But I wonder if he'll miss me."
chairman of Sun Microsystems
CEO of Apple
"Bill's vision and commitment to open innovation have been pivotal in driving standards-based computing and a new wave of productivity. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone else who's had a greater impact on driving computing into every element of people's lives.
"I've always had great respect for Bill's passion for the potential of technology and really think he personifies entrepreneurship, not only as a proven technology visionary but also a business strategist. Bill's shown a great deal of courage over the years, pushing the envelope in everything from IT innovation to public-policy discussions.
"Bill is one of a handful of IT industry leaders whose work has literally changed the world by making technology more ubiquitous and accessible for people everywhere. Many of today's game-changing technologies are possible, in part because of the framework built by Bill and his teams at Microsoft.
"That said, I think Bill's most lasting contribution may well be the Gates Foundation. Bill and Melinda are an inspiration, investing their energies and bringing billions of dollars to some of the world's most pressing problems.
"I don't think we'll see him letting up. If anything, the drive that's characterized Bill during his years at Microsoft will likely intensify, as he turns his full focus to the foundation. We should all stay tuned for what's next."
founder and CEO of Dell
"Bill is unquestionably a legend who's has had a far greater impact than most people understand. While the business stories about Bill are many, my favorite Bill Gates story is one he didn't even know I was party to.
"Back in the 1980s, Comdex was not just an industry confab, it was the ultimate party. I was dancing at one of the many events with a couple of girls who were clearly out of my league. All of a sudden, one of their friends comes over to us and tells me they are leaving to go to party with some guy named Bill Gates because he was worth, like, $60 million.
Thanks for the motivation, Bill G.
owner of HDNet and the Dallas Mavericks,
former CEO of Broadcast.com
"I guess my view would be that I can imagine a time in the mid-to-distant future when nobody remembers Microsoft or Bill's role in Microsoft, but everyone will know of the Gates Foundation and its contributions to the world.
"If Bill can bring to the Gates Foundation the same drive, determination, and relentlessness that he brought to Microsoft, then he'll be one of history's great and lasting heroes. This is a new arena, when we will ALL be rooting for Bill to vanquish his 'competitors'--disease, ignorance, and poverty."
venture capitalist of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners;
former CEO of Sybase, Powersoft, and Liberate Technologies
CEO of FullPower Technologies; founder of Borland Software
"There's a bunch of things that I have learned. Having the scale of ambition is at the core of it. (Bill would say) 'When you think about it, don't think about it in millions; think about it in hundreds of millions.'
"The second thing, I would say, (that) has been so important and inspiring: there are people (who), as they go through life, they get money or they get power or whatever--whether it be in politics or sports. The true test of the person is, when you get that power, and you get that money, does it corrupt the soul?
"We were in a meeting the other day on our approach to search. It was just Bill, myself, and one other person working through some things. Toe for toe, (Gates) is a guy (who) is at least as passionate as us. He's seen everything. He doesn't have to sit in this meeting. He's as passionate, as aggressive, and as excited as anyone else.
"The thing that is so inspirational for me about Bill is that with all that he's done, his hunger, his aspiration, his optimism hasn't dissipated. How he's chosen to apply that power, that money, that capability is inspiring."
SVP of Microsoft's Online Services & Windows Business Group
"He has not been an innovator in technology--in polite circles, we would call him derivative; in less genteel terms, we would call him a plagiarist. Gates has been a business innovator, not a technology innovator. "
As I look back, I think that Gates' 'constructive monopolism' most closely parallels Thomas Edison's. They both created pretty good technologies and then worked, using many means, to get them accepted by more users than their competitors. (Nikola) Tesla and (Steve) Jobs are two sides of the same coin."
CEO of Forrester Research
"Bill Gates is a great guy. Really smart, and he's not evil--even though I've criticized him harshly. I wrote the first column criticizing Microsoft for anticompetitive behavior. It appeared in Computer World, (marking) the beginning of my journalistic career on February 25, 1991.
"In my column, Viewpoint, the headline was, 'Is Microsoft abusing its power?' I had problems relating to Bill Gates after that because I was highly critical of anticompetitive behavior, which I had detected in 1991. The occasion was Go Corp.--the false announcement of Pen Windows in order to pre-emptively destroy Go.
"Anyway, he's a god. If you have to have a richest guy in the world, Bill Gates is an awfully good choice." (Click here for MP3)
co-inventor Ethernet, founder of 3Com and Metcalfe's Law;
general partner of Polaris Venture Partners
"He was pretty game for a lot of things in the industry. He'd come, and he'd dance at industry events, and that's pretty tough when everybody is watching you, and you're not necessarily the best athlete. But he did that stuff; he did what was necessary for the company and things like that. I always respected him for being willing to be a statesman of our industry to the rest of the world.
"I remember going to a conference that Microsoft had--I think it was for Pen Computing, and they had all us techies there. The party was over at Bill's house, and we had run of the house...I wouldn't do that!
"What he's willing to do for his business, that's pretty hard-core. And that image of working real hard, getting what he did and giving it back the way he's giving back, which isn't the easy way to give back--it's a great image for others. I'm really pleased that he did it, and I hope he's happy." (Click here for MP3)
co-creator of VisiCalc spreadsheet program; founder and president of Software Garden and Trellix.
"He's not just Bill Gates, he's the Bill Gates," Steve Ballmer told Newsweek magazine. "He founded the company, he's accumulated this wealth, he's got this foundation, he's got this fame. That's irreplaceable.
"Also, Bill grew up with every one of the technologies in this company. He's got more capacity to remember things than anybody I've ever known. It's unlikely we'll have anybody again who has that breadth."
CEO of Microsoft
"I came here to do all the things non-PC. I remember talking with Bill. Bill said, 'Well, look, if we can just figure out how to write software for all these things, I'm sure there will be a way we can make money out of it.' He demonstrated in sort of a single interaction both this long-term view of things and the way he was willing to make big bets on intuition.
"I think that many of the things that the company has done have derived from a willingness to place big bets over the long term, and from my earliest days here, that was a hallmark of the way Bill thought about managing these new areas.
"I'm sort of a 'bet on people' person, and as an entrepreneur--someone who'd started and run a business--my belief is that all of the leverage is on people; you want to pick and back the right people.
"I met Nathan Myhrvold, and I met Bill Gates, and between them, I found that we shared a common enthusiasm for how technology would be able to help people in more ways.
"I was in the supercomputing business. So you could say to come from supercomputing to cars, televisions, and wristwatches was about as far a departure as you could make. But at the time, I personally believed that we always saw this trickle-down effect, where things that were at the limit of what computing could do quite quickly became commonplace, and courtesy of the Moore's Law phenomena and other things.
"It was really the camaraderie around that view that I felt in those early meetings with Bill and Nathan, and the belief that we had to go find the answers, that no one knew the answer. That was all I really needed to come here. So, we shook hands, and I came here as the general manager of a nonexistent division to do non-PC computing, and the rest is history, as they say.
Microsoft's chief officer of research and strategy
"I think I met him, actually, even before Lotus...they were doing some sort of deal with Microsoft, and Bill was driving very fast in a sports car and showed up late to a meeting, and he hadn't had a shower...it was really his intensity that was the most notable characteristic.
"I think he just brought this combination of technical and business rigor, and joined them together in understanding how the fundamental trends in the personal-computer field software and hardware were going, in ways that he could use to just build an enormous business.
"They were focused and strategic and persistent, and that was really Microsoft at its best. At the worst, I think the kind of competition routinely strayed outside of fair territory, and there was kind of a win-at-all-costs mentality that made life extraordinarily difficult." (Click here for MP3)
founder of Lotus; chairman of the Mozilla Foundation
CNET News.com's Charles Cooper, Martin LaMonica, Erica Ogg, Marguerite Reardon, and Greg Sandoval contributed to this report.