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Bill Gates' not so big exit

Legacies are a funny thing.

Take Hugh Grant. Director Richard Curtis, in the DVD commentary to his film Love Actually, claims a shot of Grant bowing on stage will be the final image in the actor’s nightly news obituary someday.

Grant, also on the commentary, disagrees. He expects the big fadeout will be his 1995 mug shot.

Bill Gates has managed to avoid such an embarrassing stain, but how he’ll be recalled is still up in the air.

Increasingly, it seems Gates – who leaves his full-time job at Microsoft this week – will be remembered for his philanthropy.

Here’s the first line of Gates’ Wikipedia biography: “William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955), is an American business magnate, philanthropist, the world’s third richest man (as of 2008), and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen.”

Those outside the technology world are apt to think of Gates as “The guy that dropped out of Harvard, started Microsoft and then gave away a lot of his money.”

Inside tech, he’s more often the guy that makes “love to hate, hate to love” sort of products. And somewhere in the recesses of everybody’s memory is that time he was accused of trying to make everybody buy them.

Gates has hit the interview circuit pretty hard this week. These aren’t exit interviews in the traditional sense. We certainly haven’t heard the last of Bill Gates (“I’m not a sit-on-the-beach type,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

And even though he won’t be inside Microsoft and claims he won’t return, we’ll likely still see Gates pitch H-1B visas on Capitol Hill and acting as a tech industry bellwether.

Judging from a quick skim of the interviews, Gates seems to be pretty well in control of his legacy. Not everybody will always love the guy at the top. But barring any run-ins with Divine Brown, his obit is looking pretty clean.

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