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Colin White

I like the various blogs associated with my many hobbies and even those to do with work. I find them very useful and I was excited when the Business Intelligence Network invited me to write my very own blog. At last I now have somewhere to park all the various tidbits that I know are useful, but I am not sure what to do with. I am interested in a wide range of information technologies and so you might find my thoughts will bounce around a bit. I hope these thoughts will provoke some interesting discussions.

About the author >

Colin White is the founder of BI Research and president of DataBase Associates Inc. As an analyst, educator and writer, he is well known for his in-depth knowledge of data management, information integration, and business intelligence technologies and how they can be used for building the smart and agile business. With many years of IT experience, he has consulted for dozens of companies throughout the world and is a frequent speaker at leading IT events. Colin has written numerous articles and papers on deploying new and evolving information technologies for business benefit and is a regular contributor to several leading print- and web-based industry journals. For ten years he was the conference chair of the Shared Insights Portals, Content Management, and Collaboration conference. He was also the conference director of the DB/EXPO trade show and conference.

Editor's Note: More articles and resourcesare available in Colin's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

December 2006 Archives

This is the time of year for giving. This means not only giving presents to loved ones and friends, but also sending off the remaining charitable donations before the end of the tax year. There was an interesting article in the New York Times (NYT) on this topic a week before the Xmas holiday: What Should a Billionaire Give – and What Should You? The article talked about the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the $31 million Warren Buffet pledged to the organization. It also mentioned that Buffet pledged another $6 billion to other charitable foundations. The article started me wondering about what other high-tech entrepreneurs give to charity.

I decided to investigate the donations of Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Steve Jobs (Apple). I chose these two people because, together with Bill Gates, I briefly met them many years ago when I introduced their keynotes at DB/EXPO for which I was the conference chair. Although these personal interactions were brief, and one shouldn’t judge a person on such a short encounter, it was interesting to see how their personalities matched their public image. I found Bill Gates very approachable and down to earth, Larry Ellison self-absorbed and egotistical, and Steve Jobs an arrogant perfectionist. In choosing these three people I wanted to see if their public images and my impressions of them related in any way to how much they put back into the system.

I don’t really need to cover Bill Gates because I think his charity work is well known. Of course how people view this work depends somewhat on how people view Microsoft. Those that view Microsoft as the evil empire see this as simply as a way of donating Microsoft’s ill-gotten gains. Some also say that it is really Melinda Gates that is driving this work. Although I have both positive and negative feelings about Microsoft, I personally believe their competition behaves just as badly. If we extend this discussion to the oil and pharmaceutical companies, then perhaps Microsoft isn’t as bad as some folks believe.

Larry Ellison founded Oracle in 1977 with $2,000 of his own money. According to Forbes, Larry Ellison has a net worth today of about $19.6 billion. Not a bad ROI! He owns the third largest yacht in the world (Rising Sun), which cost $200 million to build. In terms of charitable donations, Wikipedia reports that in order to settle a lawsuit for dumping $1 billion in shares of Oracle with insider knowledge he paid $100 million to his own charitable foundation. In 2004, Forbes listed the charitable donations of the wealthiest 400 and it showed that Larry Ellison donates about 1% of his personal wealth. In 2006, he created a stir when he failed to deliver on a promised donation of $115 million to Harvard University on account of the ouster of President Lawrence Summers.

I found an interesting article on Steve Jobs in Wired News in December of 2006 entitled Jobs vs. Gates: Who’s the Star? The article comments that, “Until recently, Bill Gates has been viewed as the villain of the tech world, while his archrival, Steve Jobs, enjoys an almost saintly reputation. But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It's Gates who's making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who's taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society. Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues. In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products. According to Forbes, Jobs was recently worth $3.3 billion … but that does not take into account Disney's $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation, which makes Jobs' Pixar holdings alone worth some $3.7 billion.”

The article went on to say, “Given Jobs' social detachment, I'm confused by the adulation he enjoys. Yes, he has great charisma and his presentations are good theater. But his absence from public discourse makes him a cipher. People project their values onto him, and he skates away from the responsibilities that come with great wealth and power. On the evidence, he's nothing more than a greedy capitalist who's amassed an obscene fortune. It's shameful. In almost every way, Gates is much more deserving of Jobs' rock star exaltation. In the same way, I admire Bono over Mick Jagger, and John Lennon over Elvis, because they spoke up about things bigger than their own celebrity. It's time for Jobs to do the same.”

The response from the Apple community was swift and vicious! There was also a common theme in many of the replies:
“Since when does charity-donating make men great?”
“It's his money. Don't tell him (or even suggest) what he should do with it.”
“If a man had the smarts to make billions then he is entitled to spend it in anyway he wants.”
“Wealthy people do not have to donate lots of money just because they are wealthy.”

It is interesting how our views of public figures affect our perception of charitable acts, or lack there of. My brief meetings with Gates, Ellison and Jobs left some strong impressions, and these impressions interestingly match quite closely how these three people approach charitable donations. For me personally, the high tech industry has been very good to me and I am trying to find ways of putting something back into the system. I don’t have the millions or billions of our industry leaders, but I do feel strongly that high-tech and science education is lacking in schools, and my approach is to try and help here by donating my time to science education. I believe all of us should try to put something back, and although the high-tech billionaires should be free to do what they want with their money they sure could do a lot to help the world in a wide range of different ways.


Posted December 29, 2006 12:44 PM
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Users can now download the first Community Technology Preview (CTP 1) of Microsoft PerformancePoint. CTP 1 combines planning, budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidation features with the scorecarding functionality of Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager Server 2005. CTP 2, scheduled for early 2007, will incorporate the functionality of CTP 1 and add analytics features from ProClarity 6.2. The general availability of PerformancePoint is scheduled for the middle of next year.


Posted December 5, 2006 11:03 AM
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