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Gates: Capitalist hero or monopolist villain?

As word spreads that he's stepping away from Microsoft, Bill Gates, as usual, elicits extreme reactions on blogs and message boards.

The mere mention of Bill Gates tends to prompt markedly different reactions from people. Some see him as the iconic example of capitalism at its finest, while to others he's a symbol of evil who's stifled innovation for his own profit.

Likewise, responses to news that Gates will step away from daily work at Microsoft tend to be extreme: He's either praised as a hero--particularly because he's leaving to put more time into his charity work--or demonized as a villain.

The following are reactions from both sides of the message boards and blogs:

Hero Gates: "I have always admired Bill Gates for what he has done. I don't care what anyone says--that he led the development of the most popular operating system and office suite in the world, managed to grow (or so I'm told) a great company to work for and continued to be involved in the day-to-day development work as chief software architect is brilliant."

Special coverage: The end of the Gates era

Villain Gates: "What part(s) of my resume should I brush up when applying for the job of 'master villain and arch-nemesis of WonderTorvalds?' On a more serious note, there are a lot of people with large emotional investments pent up in disliking Mr. Gates. The transition is going to be tough. It's almost like Inigo Montoya at the end of 'The Princess Bride.' Maybe they should turn to piracy."
--Thunderstruck on Slashdot

Hero Gates: "I would just like to say thanks to Bill for his continuing work with the Gates Foundation. I don't see the other multibillionaires (Google guys, Red Hat guys, Ellison, Jobs, etc.) stepping up to the plate and making any commitment EVEN CLOSE to the level he has. All I see those guys doing is buying fighter planes, boats, sports teams and big houses. Good luck Bill!"
--Anonymous Coward on Slashdot

News.com Poll

Bill Gates has set a timetable to end his day-to-day work at Microsoft. Do you agree with his plans?

Too soon. There's no one else who can fill his shoes.
Not soon enough. He should have left years ago.
Just about right. The company's in capable hands with Ballmer, Ozzie and crew.

View results

Villain Gates: "Gates will be remembered as a guy who stifled technology by abusing his company's power via the Windows operating system. He thinks he can buy salvation, but his legacy is the technology and other companies he unfairly and illegally destroyed. The IT world will be much better off without him."
--t8 on CNET News.com's Talkback

Hero Gates: "I say Bravo Bill. Whatever I may think of the actions of Microsoft over the last three decades, I applaud Bill for focusing both his money and his time on trying to make the world a better place, and for doing it while he's still young enough (50), to really get involved and make a (hopefully) long lasting, positive impact. If Bill can apply the same level of intellect, energy and financial resources that he did at MS against some of the relatively intractable problems of the world, I suspect he will make more of a difference than a thousand government bureaucrats."
--Phil Steinmeyer

Villain Gates: "How much wealth did Bill destroy? Ask yourself, if you think Bill and M$ are such great contributors to the economy, how much wealth did they destroy along the way by using dubious (at the least) practices to stamp out or absorb innovative new companies with technologies that infringed on their domains? We will never know how much further along we would have been in a truly competitive environment. Oh, yeah, they DID help the antivirus industry to flourish, didn't they?"
--wlamia on CNET News.com's Talkback

Hero Gates: "Many people deride MS for providing crappy products and using its market share to squash everything good in the software world, but it's clear that Gates has had an eye out for what good he can do outside of the software world for a long time. Given his success with MS (luck and timing included), I think he'll do much, much greater things for the world as he begins to focus on the philanthropic work his foundation can lead. The current leaders of our world can learn a thing or two from this announcement. Here's to people taking a step back and doing things for the greater good. Cheers, Bill Gates"
--The Narrator

Villain Gates: "The fact that he's siphoning off a relatively small amount of the filched money (somewhere in the neighborhood of half a trillion, yes, with a "t," dollars in revenue over the past 30 years) for tax deductible charity is no excuse for stealing in the first place. He's no different from the robber barons in the railroad, steel and oil monopolies of a century and more ago."
--Joe Blow on CNET News.com's Talkback