Bill Gates

Businessweek has a section on great innovators that focuses this week on Bill Gates.

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT ) many critics will wonder what William H. Gates III is doing on a list of the greatest innovators of the last 75 years. The world's largest software company is often accused of piggybacking on the innovations of others rather than inventing itself. It's even accused of using its market clout to suppress creations from rivals.

Still, Gates deserves to be counted as a great American innovator — just of a different sort. More than anyone else, he can be credited with turning the disorganized PC tribes of the late 1970s into today's huge industry. Gates was among the first to recognize that all sorts of companies and products would be created if a computer's operating system and all the other software programs were separated from the hardware. The insight liberated innovation. Anyone anywhere could concoct new technologies, not just the engineers working on a new computer. "That was a doozy," Gates says. "We allowed there to be massive innovation on the hardware side and massive innovation on the software side."

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