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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 15:41 GMT
Gates, a modern-day Napoleon?
Bill Gates, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson and Napoloen
Gates, left, compared to Napoleon, right, by the judge
By BBC News Online's David Schepp

As a teenager, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates enjoyed reading about the exploits of the French military genius Napoleon.

It is then perhaps more than a little ironic that the judge in the US vs Microsoft trial has accused Mr Gates of acting like the man with whom he had a youthful fascination.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's comments on Gates and his lawyers are detailed in a book by New Yorker contributor Ken Auletta.

Microsoft trial judge Jackson thinks Gates is a tyrant
Could the trial judge really think Gates a tyrant?
In the book, Jackson is said to have told Auletta that Gates suffers from "a Napoleonic concept of himself and his company, an arrogance that derives from power and unalloyed success".

Neither that comment nor similarly made ones have escaped Mr Gates' lawyers.

In filing a brief on Monday, his legal team asked an appeals court to overturn Judge Jackson's ruling, ordering that the software behemoth be split in two.

The lawyers argued Judge Jackson was an unworthy arbiter, since he has an obvious dislike for Mr Gates and his modest, benign software empire.

So are there any other similarities between Bill and Napoleon that Judge Jackson latched onto?

Napoleon built up a French empire in Europe, leading troops to victories across the continent before over-stretching his forces and finally being defeated in Moscow, Leipzig and the Battle of Waterloo.

He ended his days banished to spend his last days on the island of St Helena.

Bill Gates has conquered the world with his computer software, blitzing opponents along the way.

Napoleon at a glance
Height: 5ft 4ins
Married: Josephine & Marie Louise
Lasting impression on French society
Formidable negotiator
Warred against a huge range of opponents, causing deaths and suffering
Famous saying: Not tonight Josephine

But he has never been accused of causing bloodshed on a scale associated with the French general.

So perhaps there are some other similarities...

What about physical characteristics? At 5ft 4in (1.67m), Napoleon wasn't a tall man even in his day, and his lack of height is often cited as the chief reason for his need to over-achieve.

For his part, Bill also isn't particularly tall, ringing in at 5ft 10ins (1.78m) at a time when the average American male stands about 6ft (1.83m) high.

Napoleon's grin

Then there's the hair. In their youth both men were known for their flowing locks, which gave way to shorter styles (and expanding waistlines) at middle age.

But Napoleon was also known for his proper posture, while Bill appears to slouch at nearly every opportunity, leaving mothers across the US aching to tell him to sit up.
Gates at a glance
Height 5ft 10ins
Married: Melinda
Became the world's richest man
Led a computing revolution
Quashed opponents and competitors
Aimed to save lives and reduce suffering through charitable gifts
Famous saying: We do innovate

There's also that goofy grin, a Gates trademark.

History books make no note of a grinning Napoleon. An infamous military genius and emperor, Bonaparte was not known for his ability to beam.

But given that Bill studied Napoleon's life with some keenness, surely they share some grand similarities aside from the stubbornness, shrewd tactical skills and demands for absolute loyalty, which Judge Jackson eluded to.


Both men are known for their patronage of the arts and their support of schools and universities. (Mr Gates has also given large sums of money for AIDS and other health research).

Both are also known for their heated tempers.

Mr Gates also favours a biting sense of humour (also known to afflict former US vice president Al Gore) that when unleashed is often viewed as insulting and condescending.

But it is perhaps their respective use of "code" that revolutionised the way people lived during each leader's lifetime that is the most noteable likeness.

Napoleon developed laws, known as the Napoleonic Code, that are still in existence today.

Under the code, adopted in 1804 and in response to the French Revolution, commoners were empowered with individual freedoms and rights, among other things.

Creating a better world

Mr Gates, too, is often cited as the father of a code that has empowered the average citizen.

Software marketed by Microsoft called DOS, or disk operating system, helped develop the burgeoning personal-computer (PC) industry in the early 1980s.

Gates defenders say the judge's comments expose his bias
Gates defenders say comments by judge Jackson expose his bias

But while the Napoleonic code is often hailed for its clarity and forthrightness, Microsoft's operating software is oftened maligned and derided for its complexity.

It is Mr Gates contention that one cause for his legal woes is that people simply do not understand what is that he is trying to achieve.

He claims that Microsoft's dominance is necessary for innovation and improvement.

Surely Napoleon felt his dominance was necessary for a better world, too.

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29 Jan 01 | Business
Judge 'likened Gates to Napoleon'
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