Bill Gates

       On Thursday through Saturday I was at an Executive retreat we do every year. It’s exciting to get together with the top people and talk about our plans. We take the four toughest challenges facing the company and break up into groups to come up with creative ideas on how we can address them. This year the four were: 1) How can software do a better job for Knowledge workers? 2) How can we make jobs at Microsoft so attractive that we continue to have the lowest turnover in the industry? 3) How should we communicate the benefits about all the new products we bring out in the next year including NT 5? 4) How can our software architecture make it easy to run software on PCs, PC servers, and PC servers on the Internet? The group came up with some excellent ideas as well as building a lot of team spirit.

       On Sunday morning I left for D.C. and spent most of the five-hour United flight to Dulles catching up on my e-mail backlog, reviewing my opening statement for the hearing, and going over probable questions. I also worked on the text of a five-minute speech about the Wright Brothers that I will give Tuesday night at Time magazine’s 75th anniversary dinner in New York. The assignment was to pick someone from the 20th century I admire who has had the biggest impact. I will spend more time on that when I fly up to New York after the hearing ends. Should be a very fun evening.

       Watched a little of the latest James Bond movie on the flight, somehow they are not as good as the ones I saw when I was young, or maybe it’s me that is different.

       It’s been a year since the last time I was in D.C. I think I’m going to be making the trip a lot more frequently from now on.

       Tuesday is certainly going to be interesting. On the one hand, it’ll be great to finally get a chance to tell Microsoft’s story–unfiltered–to members of Congress. That I’m looking forward to. On the other hand, I’m sure Scott [McNealy] and Jim [Barksdale] are going to use it to attack us and the PC industry, which they invariably do.

       I thought hard about coming to D.C. to testify for this hearing. I decided it was the right thing to do after meeting with Hatch in Davos and talking to him on the phone. It’s important that I communicate to members of Congress the good things we’ve done for the American economy, for the software industry, and for consumers. Senator Hatch told me he was going to conduct it in a fair way and really wanted to understand our industry.

       Things have been pretty crazy since last October, when the DOJ said we’d violated the consent decree. Their objection is that we’re integrating Internet Explorer into Windows 95. They think we shouldn’t ever add anything to the operating system that has been available separately. Integrating new features into the operating system is something we’ve been doing for 17 years.

       Netscape only started complaining after they lost the reviews and people started using our product. There is no more open market than Internet browsers. Consumers can use any Internet browser they want just by taking five seconds to download a new browser.

       I believe we haven’t done a good enough job getting our point across: that to deny Microsoft the freedom to continue to add features to the OS is to deny us the right to compete and to give customers new products. That’s exactly what our competitors want, of course, but it’s unfair for the federal government to be taking sides in a competitive battle. We can’t force anyone to use our browser over Netscape’s. The reason our Internet browser is gaining in popularity is because people like it.

       One of the things I know I’m going to be asked on Tuesday is whether Microsoft is going to try to control the Internet. This is the Next Big Thing everyone is talking about. I have to stop myself when people ask this question, because while I know that people mean well, the idea of Microsoft controlling the Internet is crazy. Microsoft can no more control the Internet than we can control what people think, or where they drive, or what they eat for lunch. The Internet is far too big for any one company (or group of companies) to control. Of course we want to benefit from opportunities on the Internet, just like everyone else does, but to the extent we are successful with the Internet, it will be because we make it as open and universal as possible. That’s what gets me enthused about the work ahead.

       Met Melinda (my wife) at the hotel as she had been in North Carolina the last three days for a Duke board meeting. She attended a great basketball game between Duke and UNC on Saturday. We walked up Pennsylvania Avenue from the hotel so I could show her the boardinghouse I stayed in when I was a page in Congress. We walked up the steps of the Capitol. I showed her the flagpole where they run flags up and down all day so they can send flags to people all over the United States mentioning that they flew over the United States Capitol. We went into the National Gallery and saw some paintings by one of our favorite artists–Hopper. We had a quick pizza for dinner.

       I went to bed early last night so I’ll be fresh. Today I will be available to senators on the committee to answer any questions they have. It will be fun to talk about the PC industry. At least that is the way I feel right now.