Monday, April 03, 2006

If true, this is cold, real cold...

There are a ton of caveats in this story on Gates/Ballmer re: Paul Allen so be sure to take it with a spoon of salt, but having said that it would explain why Mr. Allen left Mr. Softee and never looked back. As a fan of the American model - work hard, innovate some, market the h-e-double hockey sticks out of it - I am a big Microsoft guy. But for some reason this just bothers me....

"There was a time when Paul Allen, not Bill Gates, was the boss at Microsoft. When it came time to visit Albuquerque to demonstrate that first BASIC interpreter to the folks at MITs, Allen made the trip, not Gates. It was Paul Allen, not Gates, who was later offered the job as head of software for MITs -- a job I have in the past characterized as the single most expensive position in the history of employment because accepting that job meant that Allen got only 36 percent of Microsoft’s founders shares, compared to Bill Gates’ 64 percent.

These roles changed over time, of course, and what clearly precipitated the change was Paul Allen’s health. He contracted Hodgkins Disease, a form of cancer, in 1982 when Allen was in charge of the development of MS-DOS 2.0, a complete rewrite of PC-DOS 1, which was itself mainly derived from Seattle Computer Products’ Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS) that Microsoft had acquired when Digital Research was unable to come to terms with IBM about using CP/M for the original PC.

To his credit, Allen stayed long enough to finish the job, delivering DOS 2.0 then leaving the company forever, eventually to have a bone marrow transplant that cured him completely.

But during one of those last long nights of working to finish-up DOS 2.0, something happened. I have heard this story from two people, each of whom was a friend of Allen’s and in a position to know. Each told me the same story the same way. I am not staking my reputation on the accuracy of the story, but I am saying I have it from two good sources. Paul Allen certainly won’t confirm or deny it, so I’ll just throw it out for you to consider.

During one of those last long nights working to deliver DOS 2.0 in early 1983, I am told that Paul Allen heard Gates and Ballmer discussing his health and talking about how to get his Microsoft shares back if Allen were to die."

Now before we go Oprah on Gates' backside, let's remember that Mr. Allen is worth roughly $14 Billion and thankfully he is fully recovered, so he's doing a little better than most. But still, could you imagine overhearing a conversation where two of you co-workers were discussing plans for your assets if you passed?

"You can't afford to be neutral on a moving train"

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