Mike Isaac

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Bill Gates on Philanthropy, Steve Jobs and the Microsoft Product That Never Was

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, creator of the Windows software platform, and one of the richest people in the world, has a hundred bucks in his pocket right now. But you probably won’t be getting any of it.

That’s from a cutesy one-off question Gates answered on Monday afternoon while doing an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, the massive social news and entertainment website that often sees celebrity guests stop by to take questions from the masses (guests have included President Obama himself).

Many of the questions swung back to Gates’s current philanthropic activities; Gates is half of the head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where the two multibillionaires seek charitable causes to which they donate much of their vast wealth. That’s why unless you’re working on a malaria vaccine right now, don’t expect Gates to PayPal you a cool million bucks.

But the questions ran the gamut. After one user asked about Gates’s complicated relationship with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Gates left this little bit of insight: “He and I respected each other,” Gates wrote, citing the landmark deal Apple made with Microsoft years ago to write apps for Mac computers. “I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away.”

Another user asked about the one Microsoft product that Gates wished had shipped but never made it to market. Gates cited WinFS, or Windows Future Storage, a “rich database as the client/cloud store that was part of a Windows release” at one point, he said, but ultimately it was too far “before its time.” (For the uninitiated: It would have been an interesting release for the data storage wonks in IT, not something consumer-facing.)

Of note: People usually get him books for birthday presents (seeing as he can buy whatever he wants), he’d rather fight one horse-sized duck than 100 duck-sized horses (a Reddit AMA staple question), and he still thinks the “next big thing” will be found in “robots, pervasive screens” and “speech interaction” technologies — things he has trumpeted for some time now.

The best part, however, was how Gates ended the interview with a custom-made request: How do I eradicate this terrible picture of myself from the Internet?

Good luck with that one, Bill.

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