What did Bill Gates ever do for me: IT managers speak out

IT managers believe Bill Gates has made software...

IT managers believe Bill Gates has made software cheaper through pioneering mass market computing.

But they are concerned Microsoft could lose focus from their core product set without him.

IT directors and business leaders, speaking in the week that Gates leaves Microsoft, said Redmond's chairman had been instrumental in ensuring the spread of IT throughout business.

"Without doubt the world is a different and, in my opinion, better place because of what Bill and Microsoft have done to craft a life where technology is so pervasive and indispensable," said Government CIO John Suffolk.

"'Microsoft under Gates' leadership has transformed the way people work and boosted office productivity unimaginably," said Charles Lowe, interim IT director of Aston Martin Lagonda.

Ronan Miles, chairman of the UK Oracle User Group, said, "Gates' major contribution to corporate IT has been to give a huge population access to IT. This has allowed massive uptake of IT in business."

Peter Scargill, IT director at the Federation of Small Businesses, said Bill Gates had made it possible for millions of small businesses to compete with larger rivals.

"The Microsoft Windows operating system has been the single unifying force in business computing. It is the Microsoft operating system that has allowed us to collaborate as businesses," he said.

In particular, the integration of Microsoft Exchange with e-mail and phones in managing contacts gives small businesses features that were previously the preserve of larger companies, he said.

Stephen Boulten, head of IT at Leek United Building Society, said that Gates had helped businesses improve their productivity.

"Microsoft has provided the tools that allow me to produce quality work and improve the efficiency of my work through applications such as Visio and MS Office."

But some of the strategies that Gates has overseen have been less than successful, said Ray Titcombe, chairman of the IBM Computer User Association.

Microsoft's strategy to "empower users through software" may have had the opposite effect on workers, he said.

"We now have highly paid professionals in most organisations spending a large proportion of their time designing Excel spreadsheets and Access databases that arguably would be better designed and developed within IT."

Stephen Boulten, head of IT at Leek United Building Society, said there was a danger that Microsoft would spread itself too thinly.

There was a danger of Microsoft trying to enter every market space that generates an income at the expense of delivering what their customers need, he said. "The company needs to focus on their core product set," Boulten said.

IT directors and user organisations said they wanted Microsoft to continue developing affordable software tools to help them do their jobs easier.

John Suffolk, government CIO said, "The challenge going forward for Microsoft, and the IT industry generally, is growing the capability of business leaders to fully exploit what has been created and banish from all boardrooms the ability for leaders to say 'I do not understand technology'. Those that do not understand technology do not understand life."

UK Oracle User Group's Miles, said, "Microsoft has been a key driver in de-skilling technology and we need more of this."

But the way its software is licensed is still too complex, according to IBM Computer User Association's Titcombe.

Charles Lowe, interim IT director at Aston Martin says Microsoft must strive for better integration. "What I would like to see from Microsoft in future is more and better integration of systems both within the Microsoft product range as well as with the rest of the IT world," he said.

Scargill at the Federation of Small Businesses, said he would like to see Microsoft focus on improving the reliability of its products rather than releasing new versions of its operating system.

"There are a lot of companies that have not moved to Vista. I think Microsoft would do themselves a lot of favours if they focused on reliability and maintenance of their operating system rather than new features."

Regarding Ray Ozzie, Gates' successor, Tracy Andrew, head of information and security at Berkshire NHS shared service, said, "If possible, make the system more open architecture, make more of the code available for others to produce packages to use Windows - you have the dominiant position, why not now work with others rather than exclude them?"

What has Bill Gates done for you ? Have your say >>

Related links:

Goodbye, Bill Gates: Essential Guide and Video Round-up>>

Bill Gates: looking back on the road ahead>>

Read more on Operating systems software