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Gates 2005: Rural kiosks to R&D labs
MICROSOFT, INFOSYS Gates-Murthy double bill on software, politics, America
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Posted online: Thursday, December 08, 2005 at 0154 hours IST

Prime Minister Singh and Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, at Vigyan Bhavan on Wednesday. NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 7: America is at war and Bill Gates, worth $39 billion in packaged software, wants it to merge with China and India.

‘‘Roll the three together and we’d have a heck of a country,’’ Microsoft’s Chairman and Chief Software Architect said today to an attentive audience that lapped up a rare interaction between the world’s richest man and India’s own IT Chief Mentor, N Narayana Murthy of Infosys.

This meeting was the highlight of a day when Microsoft said it will invest $1.7 billion in India over the next four years. That sum is hardly insignificant, for sure, but the interest in Gates-Murthy also reflects Indian IT seeking its place in the global sun.

Gates, who celebrated his fiftieth a few months ago, talked on a variety of topics, from the usual competition-and-mantras to America’s freedom impulse and its wars, its universities and businesses.

Twice during the live telecast of a discussion moderated by NDTV’s Prannoy Roy, Gates, who is on his fourth visit to India, deliberated on the US war in Iraq. Murthy, ten years his senior, meanwhile, got away with answering difficult ones about the backlash against outsourcing.

‘‘Unlike Bill, I don’t mind saying stuff openly,’’ Murthy could say. ‘‘If there’s an outcry against outsourcing, it is India’s failing. It means we have to do a better job of convincing people that there is value for US corporations in outsourcing,’’ the Infosys Chief Mentor said.

After action-packed meetings with President Kalam, (who recently took a positive view on Microsoft’s competition), the IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Gates spoke on Iraq.

‘‘I think there are cases where the US has used force, and the world will say it was the right thing to have done, like during World War II. One out of two — that’s not bad,’’ he said.

More came, as Gates stressed on the need for governments to seek ‘‘consensus’’ when the stakes are very high.

‘‘I think Iraq was a very good decision. I really think there should be a very solid reason or an imperative (behind use of force). That doesn’t mean you back off from a committment in another country...In a good democracy, you get smarter as you go on.’’

Besides, as Murthy acknowledged too, the US is smarter at doing business and running universities than all other nations.

‘‘When it comes to open economies, the US has the most open economy I have ever seen,’’ Murthy said.

The one thing India lacks, he added, is that there’s no premium on time in this country. ‘‘We cannot discuss things ad nauseum.’’

The upshot? Both industrialists believe in democracy, though Gates had to talk about it more.

‘‘For modernising the country, democracy is the least bad way to go,’’ the Microsoft chief said. But when asked about their plans for politics, both IT icons were quick to say No.


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