Bill Gates was at Comdex Canada to introduce and promote Windows 95. Before his standing-room-only presentation, he toured the Microsoft Booth on the show floor.
Bill, his bodyguard, and his entourage entered the booth. First up was a person demonstrating contact management software. Bill took up his familiar pose of the right hand in the left armpit and chin resting on the left hand – the um hmm position. The gentleman gave a great demo of a beautiful piece of software with lots of cool features.
Bill just went, “mmm, yes nice, … uhuh”. I swear I could see the thought bubble above Bill’s head filled with things like, send an email to Bob and Judy about how we should be doing this. Or an email about how come we are not doing something like this in such and such product. Bill was taking it all in and formulating his action items right there on the fly.
His entourage toured him over to another booth of an emulation software vendor. They sold software for talking to mainframes; at this point, it was a big profitable market. The introductions made Bill asks his first question.
“Aren’t your competitors…?” He lists every company in that mainframe emulator market space which at the time was 15 to 20. Then Bill says directly to this VP, “Isn’t that one of your competitors right over there?” (he points to another pod in the Microsoft booth). The VP says, “Yes, it is.” Bill says, “Why didn’t you buy that spot?” The VP says, “A little friendly competition never hurts anybody.” Bill says, “If it was me, I would have bought that space.”
By observing these two short conversations, I was able to see the incredible business mind of Bill Gates at work. So what was I doing there, you ask?
I was working in the Microsoft booth supporting the hot, new, yet-to-be-released Compaq supplied gear, which was running the yet-to-be-released software from Microsoft.