In a speech peppered with predictions, politics and digs at Google and Apple Computer, Gates also said he wished that Microsoft had never used stock options to compensate employees.
"I actually regret that we ever used them," he said, adding that "the approach we're using now is just a better approach."
Options are now frowned upon by investors, but in the late 1990s they transformed the Seattle area, funneling up to $8 billion a year into the economy, raising real-estate prices and creating a new class of young and often philanthropic millionaires.
Microsoft dropped its options program in 2003 and now grants smaller packages of stock awards that are redeemable over time.
Gates was not available to elaborate, but his comments came after a weekend spent with his friend Warren Buffett, a longtime critic of stock options.
The revelation resonated in Seattle, where Microsoft options made the last economic boom and recession more extreme, said Roberta Pauer, the state's regional labor economist in Seattle. She agreed that it would have been better if they were never used.
"It might feel good at the time, but it is never good to have an overheated economy," she said. "It's like too much cotton candy at the fair."'
By all means, keep those investors gay and your employees on the straight and narrow. Letting your rank-and-file workers attain real wealth is like letting them do what they want in the bedroom. Too much sugar and they'll forget their proper place.