Bill Gates, a truly original thinker


Interesting story on Page One of the Journal today (see here) about how Mr. Bill got ready for his big speech at Harvard. Turns out he takes the same approach to speechmaking that he does to writing software. That is, he begins by looking at what others have done and then copies it, but adds lots of complexity so it comes out all frigged up. In this case he read speeches by Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, Bill Clinton, Bono and others. But his biggest source of material, er, inspiration was a speech that George Marshall (yeah, I have no idea either) gave at Harvard in the 1600s or something. After selecting material to plagiarize, plus “methods and concepts,” Bill brought in some writer from Slate, plus a staff of other people, and they all spent months writing drafts and having meetings and trading emails and punching things up with a few jokes about how Bill was a loser in college, and then to cap it off he gets some help from his old pal Jimmy Buffett [ed. note, shurely "Warden"?]. From this messy hodgepodge of incompatible sources and multiple authors comes the rambling, incoherent speech that Gates gave at Harvard.

In case you’re wondering how Vista manages to be both entirely derivative and yet amazingly bloated and slow and turgid, well, now we know.

Contrast this to my own process of preparing for Monday’s WWDC keynote. You won’t be surprised to learn that at Apple we take a slightly different approach to these things. First of all, we begin not with content but with presentation. I’ve spent the past month rehearsing in our made-to-order exact replica of the Moscone Center auditorium, filled with 5,000 extras who play the role of Apple developers (given Nembutal to create that glazed, worshipful expression). We’ve got the whole super-dramatic Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will stage setup going, with the 40-foot X and other large symbols of power and domination. Every day I spend hours running through my presentation, even before the actual text has been written. Hit my spot, say a line, click the remote, boom. Hit my spot, say a line, click the remote, boom. Look out at audience, turn left and right, pretend to make eye contact, try to look slightly wooden and unnatural. It’s harder than it looks, trust me. It’s just that I make it look easy. After rehearsal I’ll spend an hour looking into a mirror working on my hypnotic gaze. Every other day I meet with my beard colorist, Annalisa, to make sure the salt-and-pepper mix is perfect. And my couture consultant Katarina brings me fresh samples of mock turtlenecks.

Today will be our last day of rehearsals, after which Katarina will present me with the actual JobsWear outfit that I’ll be wearing Monday — each piece brand new, freshly laundered and hermetically sealed in clear virgin plastic — and I will go into retreat at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center for the weekend. Starting at sundown tonight I will begin fasting and solitary meditation. I’ll eat nothing but miso soup and will not speak to anyone. By Monday I’ll be five pounds lighter and so hungry I could tear someone’s face off with my teeth. In other words, perfect.