We interrupt our usual tech-industry programming today to bring you something mostly different, Fortune’s annual World’s Greatest Leaders list.
At the top is a former tech guy, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda. The Gateses have given away some $45 billion over the years to fight diseases like malaria, cholera, and tuberculosis. Fortune top editor Clifton Leaf, who wrote the cover story about their efforts, asked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for an accounting of every grant it has made. “I got back a spreadsheet with 41,487 items,” Leaf reports. The spreadsheet undoubtedly was in Excel.
I encourage you to have a look at the whole list of leaders as well as Geoff Colvin’s masterful introduction, which focuses on the connection between leadership and “hardiness.” Despite Bill Gates being at the top, you won’t find a lot of tech leaders in this year’s ranking. Tim Cook, for leading his company into a new business model, and Masayoshi Son, for leading a reinvention of investing, are two.
I’ve long felt it is ironic that Gates eventually will be remembered as a canny and articulate philanthropist rather than as a ruthless and cunning technologist. The rest of the tech industry is pretty good at leading the way to making products that generate lots of profits but not much else. The greatness isn’t as apparent these days.
A quick note on Microsoft: Its newest Xbox won’t have a slot for discs. Young people undoubtedly will say “Duh!” to that, but it’s a big deal. Microsoft assumes most games will be downloaded or streamed. It’s also a reminder to add the software company to the list of would-be streamers—Disney, Apple, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, Google—who intend to join the fray soon.
Shares of IBM dipped 4% Wednesday after the technology behemoth reported declining revenue in its most recent quarter. What continues to amaze is how important IBM’s mainframe business remains. “Despite the chatter that ‘this time might be different,’” writes Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, “the mainframe (and associated offerings) is proving once again to be a highly cyclical and important driver of IBM’s overall financials.” Mainframe revenue was down 11% year over year.