Google "kicked our butts," Gates said in 2004. Almost two decades after the "tidal wave" memo, Microsoft's online service continues to lose money.
Even when Gates seemed to have some foresight, he couldn't seem to execute it in a compelling way that inspired consumers and the industry to follow up.
In 2001, Gates took the stage at the Comdex trade show to unveil the gadget he was sure represented the future of computing: the tablet!
"Next year a lot of people in the audience will be taking notes with those Tablet PCs," he predicted.
Nope. It would be almost a decade before Jobs and Apple got the device and the timing right to unleash the tablet revolution.
In an interview with Charlie Rose last year, Gates said of Jobs' success with the iPad: "He did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren't as thin, they weren't as attractive as what came along."
This is nothing personal against Gates, by the way. He is doing some astonishing work in his post-Microsoft career, focusing on international health and education. Some have said that it's possible he will one day remembered more for his philanthropic work than for his role in sparking the PC age.
But in the meantime, there seems to be a little bit of wishful thinking and rewriting of history going on. At the moment, Gates seems to be showing no interest in returning to the Microsoft helm.
Whatever issues the company has, though, they aren't likely to be solved by the myth-making that the tech industry loves to practice.