Bill Gates and Microsoft recognized the true potential of high-speed data and video services over cable delivery back in the 1990s.
Microsoft announced that it invested $1 billion in Comcast Corporation in 1997 to improve Comcast’s network deployment to improve broadband capabilities. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts talked about how the Microsoft deal came about in an interview with Bloomberg’s David Rubenstein this week.
Data will eclipse TV
A group of various cable companies was formed to meet with some of the leading technology firms, including Microsoft, Roberts said. During a meeting with then-CEO Gates, the world’s richest man outlined his vision: the data business will someday eclipse the TV business.
Gates’ outlook matched that of Comcast’s, as the company was busy investing in fiber, “a new thing no one had heard of at the time.” In fact, the capital-intensive requirements created an industry that Wall Street hated,” Roberts said.
Fortunately, Gates is as far away from Wall Street as possible and was happy to invest $1 billion in Comcast without any demands for board seats or the inclusion of Microsoft products. Thus, Gates is responsible for starting the broadband wars that have benefited consumers over the past 20 years.
Gates and Microsoft also benefited, of course, with a 400 percent ROI.
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