So it's evening now and Bill must have left. The farewell was well done - they videotaped many employees asking him questions and Bill tried to answer as many of them as he could. Steve would often add his thoughts as well and it was obvious what a good team they were together.
The impact he has had is simply amazing - not just here in the US but all over the world. In India he is as popular as anybody. In fact if you triend to establish which Brand is better recognized among Bill Gates, Windows and Microsoft, I wouldn't at all be surprised if the answer was Bill Gates.
I remember reading his book 'The road ahead' about 13 years ago - I was thousands of miles away in a different continent working in an entirely different industry. Never did I imagine then that one day I would work for Microsoft and have the privilege of meeting him.
I met him twice - the first tiem as an intern in 2002 when we were taken to his house - I remember asking him how Technology could help bridge the digital divide - but don't really remember what his answer was.
The next time was when he actually came to speak at the inauguartion of the world finals of the Windows Embedded Stuent ChallengE - a program that I had developed. In my first job in Microsoft after Business School, I was asked to look after the academic program in Windows Embedded. So I created an undergraduate Computer Engineering competition called the Windows ChallengE in which teams had to build an image of Windows CE on h/w that we provided and then build applications to satisfy a particular theme. In year 2 I expanded this competition worldwide and we selected 30 teams to come here to demo their projects. On the eve of the finals I went to bed and woke up in the morning with a start - I had just dreamt that Bill was going to speak at the inauguration. When I reached the office Susan Del Bene who was then VP came to my room and said that there was a chance that she could get some Senior Exec to attend since they were having a meeting in the next room. I strongly urged her to ask Bill or Steve since those were the only two people who the students would recognize. I also told her about my dream. She was great about asking Bill and sure enough he agreed. When all the students were seated I announced that there was a special guest to see them and in walked Bill. The students went wild and Bill spoke to them for a good 30 minutes, took their questions and seemed to be enjoying himself.
A couple of weeks ago I sent him a mail asking him to sign a picture of the two of us on stage which he promptly did.
So i've had the good fortune to have these tiny experiences with someone who will go down among the greatest business leaders of all time. Good luck Bill! All happiness & success to you in this next stage of your life - working on the foundation to solve even bigger problems is a great way to spend the next phase of your life. There will be huge challenges of course - poverty, malaria, aids etc are tough tough problems and Bill does not have the comfort of programming and computing knowledge that helped him blaze a path in the Tech industry. But he is smart, intense and persistent so one feels like significant progress will be made. And even if he doesn't have the same degree of success, he's already achieved more than most could dream of...