The good and bad of William H Gates III

I’ve always had something of a love-hate relationship with Bill Gates. On one hand, as the father of Windows, he’s made me curse more times than any living person. As the head of Microsoft, he’s been responsible for some business practices that kinder will call "tough competition" and the less-kind "illegal abuse of a monopoly".

But on the other hand, as a businessman he’s a legend. Few others in history have built companies as strong as Microsoft from nothing. And while Microsoft has occasionally stepped over the line, I admire Gates’ toughness, his determination to be number one.

The published extracts from Steven Levy’s interview with Gates reveal both sides of him – the exasperating and amazing. There’s his statement that the anti-trust case wasn’t a low point, and his reference to it as "that one little thing". That’s the side of Gates that exasperates.

But the admirable side is there too, and it’s largely shown in what he says about the work of The Gates Foundation – and how he’s not afraid of personal attacks that it might bring:

"The new world is more controversial than the old world. We do family planning. We fund research on crops that will help the poor, not starve them. Some people think that type of droughtproof genetically modified seed causes environmental changes and you shouldn’t take science and help the poor people. In terms of controversy, this whole thing about which operating system somebody uses is a pretty silly, limited thing, compared to starvation and death"

If Gates runs at the problems of disease, poverty and malnutrition with the energy and talent that he showed in building Microsoft, I’ll more than forgive him for the hell that Windows has given me. Like he says, when compared to starvation and death, arguments about operating systems are nothing.