Slashdot It! There were two Bill Gateses on stage Wednesday at Stanford University: the philanthropist, and the hypercompetitive Microsoft co-founder and chairman. "We want to either be No. 1 or on our way to being number one," Gates said while speaking at the third annual TechNet Innovation Summit, hosted by a membership of technology CEOs. On Sony, Gates said that Microsoft has traded places with the PlayStation maker because it shipped a sleeker, lower-cost Xbox 360 a year earlier than expected, before Sony came out with its latest PlayStation 3, he said. (On its first try, Sony beat it to the punch.)
"We get what you get in the game industry--the chance to play again. Here we are with Xbox 360 playing by different rules," Gates said.
Addressing the subject of Google, Gates said the search giant might be most like Microsoft, given its ferocity for hiring smart, talented people and its business focus.
"They are a software company--they deliver a lot of it over the Internet," Gates said. "We overlap a lot (and) the overlap will get larger over time, which is fine."
Still, the competition is "fun for both companies" and encourages innovation in areas like mapping and language translation, he said.
In online media, Gates hinted that Microsoft has created a technology that lets people belong to many different online communities and control their activities and personal information from one interface.
"We have technology that will make it easy to belong to many communities and see them in one place. We have some software that will actually put the user back in control," Gates said.
Although Microsoft is still entangled in legal problems with European regulators, Gates said he was "pretty pleased" with where things ended up on Vista. The company did make some changes to the software, but he said that most of the major new features will not be taken out in Europe.
"For the first time we said to them, 'Hey, you're a sovereign, we do what you say. Should we take this feature out?' None of those regulators told us to make major changes. We were happy with the dialogue (and) all the neat things are in there," he said.
Gates said it boils down to whether regulators are looking at making changes that benefit consumers or competitors. He said that competitors always want to see Microsoft limited.
"Hey, if you can castrate some guy's product, why not," he said.
Some of the issues on the foreground for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which he will run full time in 2008, are global health and education.
Gates also spoke fondly about his friend Warren Buffett's to the Gates Foundation, which has doubled its endowment.
"He's let us dream far more," Gates said. "I get to make sure that it goes back to society (in a specific way). That's kind of daunting."
Still, Gates said he will miss his work at Microsoft, even though he'll still be at the software maker part time after 2008.
Given the chance to do it all over again, Gates said he might have pursued medicine with the potential to help improve billions of people's lives, he said.