I have been reading several websites' coverage of Bill Gates' announcement to step down from the Chief Software Architect role in 2008. Most have focused on its impact on Microsoft, the technology industry, Wall Street and global health care (which stands to gain from the Gates Foundation).
But there is another segment for whom the world has changed significantly. For years I have been reading tech humour websites making fun of Bill Gates and the realization must now be dawning that soon there will be little new material for them. Yesterday someone at Slashdot forums pointed out that Slashdot's 'Borg Bill' gif might now need to be replaced. Without Bill, even the generic 'Microsoft jokes' would start lacking bite after a while, though Steve Ballmer still is well-known and colorful enough to sustain several Microsoft jokes on his own. Still, the curtain has probably come down on articles such as 'Evil Genius Gates Drops Windows 98 Into NYC Water Supply'
Who will provide the fodder for new material? Would Microsoft be able to retain its dominant position as the butt of technology jokes over the next decade? Time will tell. Here are some potential challengers:
- Sergey Brin and Larry Page - still too young, raw and well liked in the internet community. May I say also lacking the 'presence' that attracts humorists, though this could change.
- Larry Ellison - An excellent target for humorists thanks to his over the top persona. Still, makes it difficult to tell whether some stories are humor or plain facts. Probably peaked as a humor target with 'Diplomas are for losers'.
- Scott McNealy - Plethora of 'dot-not' and 'look-out' jokes have been insufficient to attain a leadership position in the tech humor segment. In the tech segment either, for that matter.
The situation looks grim for tech humor columnists. But the great thing about this industry is its ability to throw up a winner from apparently nowhere. There is no reason why some kid in some garage somewhere cannot rise to become the inspiration for all jokes in the days to come. Heck, with a bit of effort and enterprise, it could even be you. And needless to say, Microsoft will be around. And we are still the only company with the resources to build a Death Star.