Like many star athletes, Bill Gates wants to go out on top.

As Microsoft’s founder, Gates is a man who doesn’t like to lose. Since its inception in 1975, Microsoft has experienced its share of losses, only to rise above and conquer most in its path. And Microsoft has battled the best of them, from the U.S. Justice Department, to IBM, to legions of anonymous hackers.

By changing software from a largely academic pursuit into a money-making enterprise that would ultimately be in demand by all users of personal computers, Gates offered the world a new way of communicating and of conducting business.

The company’s operating systems are still considered the most “hackable” systems. But Gates even turned that problem into an opportunity, as thousands of “blue hats” gather annually to discuss how to best the latest Microsoft operating system, and then feed Microsoft with their findings.

After watching Microsoft’s role in the now infamous downfall of Netscape Communications, one wonders how the company will compete now that Gates is gone—specifically with Google for the personal health records business. Google should also take heed to the recent release of Microsoft’s new search program called MSNBot, which scours the Web to build an index of HTML links and documents. Microsoft promises to make this offering the foundation of its overall PC and services strategies.

And it also has its eyes on the insurance space. The recently released Microsoft Insurance Value Chain (IVC) Software Factory is designed to help carriers jump-start development projects for line-of-business software applications that use common ACORD standards. A set of development tools and assets that use the Microsoft .NET Framework to help insurance firms and software vendors in the integration of existing applications and business logic with ACORD Web services, it’s an extension of the company’s broader IVC Architecture Framework, released in 2006.

And for all the talk about whether “proprietary” truly applies to his software, Gates may have seen the writing on the wall with this one. The IVC Software Factory is hosted on an Open Source development portal—free to the insurance community.

As analysts and pundits talk about “it’s not about the OS anymore,” Gates, the man who, since 1975 has had a noticeable penchant for computer code, has laughed all the way to the bank.

Maybe Gates will end up like Michael Jordan—someone unable to resist the temptation to re-enter his playing field—only to return with mediocre results. I hope not. Instead of devoting his time to the information technology business, which will get along fine without him, he’ll be working with his wife and their foundation to solve the world’s health problems. With an endowment of $37 billion, the Gateses have said they hope to spend down the foundation’s resources during their lifetimes. I hope so, too.

(c) 2008 Insurance Networking News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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