Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bill Gates and the Tokyo Monsoon

Back in September of 1994, Bill Gates was stuck in Tokyo waiting for a monsoon to blow over.  Left with hours to kill before his flight back to Seattle, Bill wandered around Narita Airport when he suddenly spied a familiar face.  It was the head of his customer support group.  Striking up a conversation about the weather and travel, the conversation turned to business.  Gates asked "What is the single biggest problem you are facing in customer support."  The response was, "Our customers do not know how to hook up devices to their computers."  Gates responded, "What can we do about that?"  The head of customer service responded "I just read an article in Byte Magazine about a new technology called '1394' which looks promising."  "Get someone who knows about this to visit us in Redmond", was Gates' response.

This event was critical to the success of 1394/FireWire because a month or so earlier, a small team from Texas Instruments had visited Microsoft to pitch 1394 and had been thrown out.  "No one wants another  %@#&  bus" was the response they'd been given.

If Gates' flight had not been delayed by the monsoon...if he had not caught a glimpse of his customer support director...if Gates' had not asked his fateful question... FireWire would have never seen the light of day.

What follows is the rest of the story.

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