Looking back at Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple, it’s impossible to separate the role Microsoft and Bill Gates played. The companies helped pioneer the industry and define an era. The two CEOs partnered at various times, competed all the time, and challenged one another in ways that helped shape the landscape of technology. It’s a complex relationship – which you can witness in this amusing video compilation of Steve Jobs best quotes about Microsoft.
During the development of the Macintosh in the early 80s, Microsoft was an important ally. Apple needed groundbreaking softwares for it’s upcoming platform and Microsoft was one of the few companies developing for it. It was a crucial phase for Apple.
The strength of their relationship could be witnessed at an Internal Apple Event in Hawai where Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh to a few Apple VIPs. Bill Gates sugarcoated the Mac and Steve Jobs loved every moment of it.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were so close at the time that according to a Guardian article, they even double-dated occasionally.
But all good things must end.
Steve Jobs had this dream where Apple would dominate the computer business and Microsoft would own the application-side of that business. The OS would naturally also by controlled by Apple.
But Bill Gates wasn’t blind. He understood that the Graphical User Interface was the future of computing. He also knew that it would quickly make its DOS operating system irrelevant and threatens Microsoft to become (just) a software company dependent of Apple. Bill Gates had bigger plans.
For years, Microsoft had engineers secretly copying the Macintosh OS and working on its own version of a Graphical OS: Windows. Not long after the Internal Event in Hawaii, Steve Jobs learned the crushing news. Microsoft wanted to compete with Apple; Bill Gates deceived him.
For the next 15 years, Apple would engage in a strange relationship with Microsoft. On one end, Microsoft was prying marketshare away from Apple, on the other, it was one of its biggest partner. Steve Jobs would soon leave Apple and create NeXT but would not succeed to make a dent in Microsoft’s dominance.
Along the way, Jobs often sparred with Microsoft, criticizing the company’s lack of creativity.
“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste,” Jobs said in the 1996 public television documentary “Triumph of the Nerds.” “They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”
In a New York Times article that ran after the documentary aired, Jobs disclosed that he called Gates afterward to apologize. But only to a degree.
”I told him I believed every word of what I’d said but that I never should have said it in public,” Jobs told the Times. ”I wish him the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He’d be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
But if Steve was still bitter about Bill, why would he keep a letter of Bill next to his bed during his last moments?
Though to say…
What both men really thought of each others or what really happened behind the curtain will probably never be known. You have to hope that these titans truly shared mutual respects and eventually found grounds to appreciate each others. Bill Gates seems to have:
Bill Gates statement at the passing of Steve Jobs
I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.
Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives.
The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.
For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.
Bill Gates, 2011.