Back to the future: Dusting off Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead

A much younger Bill Gates graces the cover of his 1995 book. Can Gates the Elder do a better job of finding Microsoft’s route to cloud and mobile relevance?
Sean Gallagher

Last week, as rumors were circulating that Bill Gates would step down from his post as chairman at Microsoft to take a more direct role in steering the company toward its future, I ran across a major find in a Baltimore thrift store—a pristine hardbound first edition of Gates’ 1995 book, The Road Ahead. Written at a critical point in the history of computing technology, the book laid out what Gates saw as the coming wave of innovation. He outlined the “information highway” in which PC, television, and phone converge into a Windows-powered world of information on demand and billed by the byte.

The book, which sold over 2.5 million copies, barely mentioned the Web and spent more time discussing the business models of online services like AOL and CompuServe than the Internet itself. And Gates spent even more pages talking about Encarta, Office, and the great things that Microsoft was planning—such as “wallet PCs” that would carry digital money as well as personal planners.

New York Times reviewer Joseph Nocera called the book “bland and tepid.”

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