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TRON man shuns Gates-like fortune

He could have been as rich as Bill Gates, but Ken Sakamura says he's fine earning enough to lead an "ordinary life."

In the world of computers, the obscure Japanese engineer stands in the top rank along with Gates, having developed an operating system that is more widely used than even Microsoft Corp's Windows. Sakamura's system, TRON, is used to run items ranging from digital cameras to car engines, just as Windows operates personal computers. What sets the two systems apart -- and the fortunes of Sakamura and Gates -- is that while Windows must be bought from Microsoft, TRON is distributed free of charge.

Had Sakamura decided to charge even one cent to each user of TRON, he would easily be a dollar billionaire by now, possibly even rivalling Gates, reputed to be the world's richest man with a fortune estimated at $43 billion by Forbes magazine. "I'm the engineer type, not a businessman," says Sakamura, 51, a professor at the University of Tokyo who developed the software nearly 20 years ago. "I think Mr Gates is more of a businessman," he laughs, adding that he is happy with the salary paid by the school. "As long as I'm leading an ordinary life, I have no problems."

According to a Tokyo University official, the annual salaries of its professors, excluding bonuses and allowances, range from seven to 10 million yen ($59-85,000). TRON is an "embedded" operating system running inside microprocessors, which control electronic devices ranging from mobile phones to fax machines and even kitchen appliances. Sakamura estimates that it is used in some three to four billion such appliances around the world, far outnumbering Windows, which controls an estimated 150 million computers.

News source: Cnn

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