Bill Gates' "Internet Tidal Wave" memo 28 years ago today sounds like Microsoft's AI push


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Apr 24, 2016
1995 was a true inflection point for the consumer use of the internet. Two years beforehand, the Mosaic web browser launched and quickly became a popular application. Companies and individuals started building web sites that offered all sorts of content online.

That included a web directory that launched in early 1994 that was later renamed Yahoo. In late 1994, the even more popular Netscape browser launched. Suddenly, the internet was not something you accessed in a college computer room but anywhere a PC was present.

In the middle of all this was Microsoft, which was planning to launch its huge Windows 95 OS update late in 1995. However, 28 years ago today, on May 26, 1995, Microsoft's employees suddenly got orders from its then-CEO Bill Gates to put all of the company's energies towards making products that use the internet.

Gates' memo was titled simply The Internet Tidal Wave, and it remains one of the most famous business memos in history. Gates stated that a combination of factors, including the increased use of the PC, better internet infrastructure, and faster online networks, would help reduce the cost of internet connections for both businesses and consumers.
Microsoft still made some mistakes during this transition period to use the internet. It had the opportunity to become the leading search provider, but it lost out to Google, which launched in early 1998. Apple saw the need for an internet-based store for music and video downloads that turned into iTunes.

However, Microsoft managed to keep going with its internet-centric plans. It even managed to stay in business after a US federal judge ordered Microsoft to be broken up into two companies in 2000 for alleged anticompetitive activities. That never happened as Microsoft entered a settlement with the US government in 2001.
28 years later, Microsoft seems to have moved into another inflection point in its business, as it fully embraces what AI can do for search, operating systems, productivity software, and more. At Build 2023 this week, a large amount of its developer announcement centers on AI products, particularly its Windows Copilot AI assistant will launch later this year.

Of course, just like it had when it put its emphasis on the internet in 1995, Microsoft will have competitors, particularly its biggest rival Google, in this new AI era. We should learn soon if Microsoft made the right move in embracing AI, as it did with with the "internet tidal wave".

Zero Knowledge

Level 20
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Dec 2, 2016
Agree with you @Zero Knowledge but when they ditched the Windows phone, I was very disappointed, just made no sense to me.
In retrospect that was their biggest mistake of the entire life of the company. They just didn't put the resources into Windows Mobile. They had one decent mobile with that Nokia release back then, but they really cooked the goose on mobile. I think that was Steve Ballmer's fault, he nearly ruined the company and took Windows back 10 years with windows 8/8.1. That OS was a huge mistake and he stuffed up the mobile, people were very happy to see him go.

Satya Nadella has really saved the company, he bet big on the cloud and now on A.I., and it's paid off thanks to Covid. Azure has become their golden goose and with their huge investment in OpenAI I think they will be on top for the next 20 years.


Level 14
Oct 16, 2022
Pure nostalgic reading this article, it's like I went back in time 28 years ago, to access the internet was a rare thing and when I accessed it was only on weekends so that the phone line wouldn't get busy, I used a dial-up access from a 14.400 Bps modem Rockwell.:)

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