If there are two people in the world that need no introduction, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs top my list. Their strong brands can already tell a million things: for Gates it is Microsoft and there is Apple for Jobs. My generation looks up to these two as the wizards that formed and strengthened the pillars of the computer world, changing the entire cycle of living. But, little did we know that Gates and Jobs have their own tale of friendship that spanned through decades. An amity that for many, was sank by competition and led to the most enflamed rivalry that the tech world has ever known and probably, will ever witness. The recently released Steve Jobs’ biography authored by Walter Isaacson created a sour picture of Bill Gates.
The Bio that triggered debates, revived rivalries
As many of us have expected, a controversial biography rather quickly followed Steve Jobs’ passing. The book written by Walter Isaacson placed Gates at the center of quite a fuss, as ABC news reported. In his words, Jobs regarded Microsoft’s founding father as “…basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
It was a comforting gesture that Gates took the high ground and deflected criticism when paying respects for Jobs and his contributions, saying, “Steve Jobs did a fantastic job. When you think about why is the world better today, the Internet, the personal computer, the phone, the way you can deal with information is just so phenomenal.”
However, he recalled factors that might have influenced Jobs portrayal of him, adding, “He faced, several times at Apple, the fact that their products were so premium priced that they literally might not stay in the marketplace. So the fact that we were succeeding with high volume products, you know, including a range of prices, because of the way we worked with multiple companies, it’s tough.” Gates furthered, “And so the fact that … at various times, he felt beleaguered, he felt like he was the good guy and we were the bad guys, you know, very understandable.”
The relationship between Gates and Jobs is a topic of dissection for The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg as well, sharing his observations in an upcoming PBS documentary titled One Last Thing.
Watch Steve Jobs: One Last Thing – Walt Mossberg on the Jobs-Gates Relationship on PBS. See more from PBS.
Can two titans ever be friends?
Just as gods in Greek mythology fight for supremacy, IT billionaires are also thriving within an extremely competitive capsule. Sad to say, but most of the time in this business sphere, there is little to no room for friendship. While everyone is still engaged in fiery debates on who should be idolized more, let’s go down the memory lane and see where Gates fit in Jobs’ chronicle:
Gates and Jobs met in the 70’s when the latter, together with Woz is building Macintosh. Yes, they have worked together for more than 30 years, more than half of Jobs’ lifetime. A dropout of the Reed College, Jobs initially worked as a technician at Atari, then later on travelled to India, formed partnership with fellow technology geeks including Wozniak, who became the co-founder of Apple. Gates imparted his genius on software for the first Macintosh. It was in 1996 when he returned to Apple. It was the same era that Gates’ Microsoft has been dominating. Pre-war, there was a friendship, later eroded by the stiff competition in the IT space.
It was this last decade that placed Jobs in history books as one of the greatest innovators of the century. He crafted new market categories with the conception of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. However, these products are premium-priced, as Gates mentioned. This is where Gates snatched the lead with less elegant features and sophisticated interface, but budget-friendly—he captured the masses in his own right.
Steve Jobs’ Priorities and Work Ethic
Gates and Jobs certainly had a love-hate relationship. And love would always tell us that at some point, they have treaded a solitary vision and agreed on some things. Perhaps they both coincided with the fact that they wanted to bring something better to the future generation—and they succeeded. Their management style of allowing their employees to take risks and bold decisions is also similar to some extent.
Jobs desired to be on top of every single sector he played in, and was a demanding leader. He was quite the perfectionist and wore his emotions on his sleeve. He was widely known to shout and show his temper when unsatisfied with results. He saw what people wanted before they even realized it. He was aggressive. He was passionate.
With larger-than-life achievements, successors of both Gates and Jobs are faced with arguably the toughest challenge in their careers, and perhaps in their lives. Apple’s new main man, Tim Cook hopes to veer away from the epic failure that Microsoft experienced after Gates’ resignation, but also has some big shoes to fill as he takes on a culture that’s built up around Jobs’ very persona.
Gates and Jobs—they both reshaped planet…period!
Whether Gates’ philanthropy or Jobs’ being the more imaginative—they both changed the world. They made it better in many ways. Microsoft brought computing down to humanity in a very affordable way. Apple gave us the “i” that made entertainment, communication and computer personalized, and is still lording over the market with absurd margins to this very day. Originality here is almost a non-issue. What made the colossal impact was the execution. Gates and Jobs stepped on the ideas of their predecessors, but they implemented changes that removed the term “impossible” from the dictionary of imagination.