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Summary:

While some may have bristled at Steve Jobs calling Bill Gates an unimaginative copycat in the Jobs biography released last week, Gates says he was not one of those people. In fact, Gates says he gets why Jobs said disparaging things about him.

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While some may have bristled at Steve Jobs calling Bill Gates an unimaginative copycat in the Jobs biography released last week, Gates says he was not one of those people. In fact, Gates says he totally gets why Jobs would, from time to time, say some pretty mean things about him. He basically suggests it was professional jealousy.

For instance, Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson, “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology,” and “He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

Here’s how Gates responded in his Sunday interview on ABC’s This Week:

“Over the course of the 30 years we worked together, you know, he said a lot of very nice things about me and he said a lot of tough things. 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. 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.”

Gates seems to be referring to the Apple that Jobs returned to in 1997, when the company was 90 days from bankruptcy. Jobs eventually ended up making a deal with Microsoft to invest $150 million into the company directly as well as develop Microsoft software for the Mac, which was a  huge boon to the Mac platform. And that’s also probably was Gates was referring to earlier in the interview when he sort of took credit for creating the Mac: “Steve and I worked together creating the Mac, we had more people on it, did the key software for it,” he told Christiane Amanpour.

“We” is obviously Microsoft. And as previously mentioned, they did develop Office, Internet Explorer and other development tools for the Mac. But Jobs and possibly a few others at Apple might take exception at the “worked on creating the Mac” bit.

Even so, Gates reiterates his respect for Jobs despite the blunt quotes about him that Jobs gave to his biographer:

“I respect Steve. We got to work together, we spurred each other on even as competitors. None of that bothers me at all.”

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  1. Christian Gingras Monday, October 31, 2011

    In his comment, Bill Gates didn’t mean the 1997 Microsoft investment or the software that they did then. He was referring to the first Mac in 1984. Microsoft created Word for the Mac at that time, and worked on a BASIC version for the Mac that was very innovative at the time. Some years later, Excel was born on the Mac to compete with Lotus Jazz. Excel then was ported to Windows after it was a success on the Mac. Bill Gates was referring to those times.

    1. Exactly. I remember some Infoworld article introducing the 5 super-developers of software for the 1984 Mac. Gates, Mitch Kapor with Lotus and whoever ran SPC (Software Publishing Corporation?) and two other guys. These 5 were given intimate documents during the Mac development process and were the seed that assured the Mac had apps at launch. I think there was also a multi-page ad spread that introduced this team to Infoworld and other tech leaders.

      The problem is that the contract Apple wrote for that information share may have been liberal because Gates used it as justification to create and engineer Windows with very similar attributes. He saw it as a two-way street like cross licensing patents. Apple sued, courts dismissed the main arguments, although there were still a couple of disputes left hanging.

      Jobs came back what?, Dec 1995, got rid of Amelio in June 1996, worked a deal with Gates and Macworld 1997 is history. The suit was dropped and Microsoft made a $150 mil non-voting investment to prop up a competitor to make a better case to the US government that MS had competition. Apple got MS Office for Mac, Internet Explorer developed for Mac and the money to stabilize the stock price.

      Gates and Jobs were born the same year, ran ground breaking tech companies, both tough angry a-holes from time-to-time and got on each others nerves. They had a lot more in common than perhaps they even thought. I think it’s interesting that Gates may have been Jobs last non-family visitor, not including Isaacson. Apparently they warmly reminisced about old times, a conversation I think anyone would have wished to be a fly on the wall. Perhaps that last multi-hour dialog is the basis for Gates current diplomatic outlook.

      Perhaps he is just happy to be alive. Who had the better path in life? The hare, Jobs, founded a company, got booted and then lost ten years, and after coming back ran the company while ill 8 out of 14 years. The tortoise, Gates, founded a company, then rolled continuously as a juggernaut and retired early, using the free time to become a philanthropist. Truly they were an apple and an orange.

      1. Great comment

      2. Dash Stewart-Wild Yacko Thursday, November 3, 2011

        also, you need to consider that Gates absolutely cannot say anything BUT good things about Steve. Steve’s dead. Speaking ill of the dead would be a faux pas even Gates would not be able to live down…

  2. all the great innovation of Steve seems to have been bit overshadowed by his arrogance and autobiography statements.

  3. As a Jobs fan, you have to take what he said with a grain of salt. Apple, and every other innovator, “borrows” (he said “ripped off”) good ideas from other people. When technology evolves, it often is a mash-up of good ideas. Knowing how to package and deliver good ideas is often harder than coming up with the ideas in the first place.

    And Gates shouldn’t be insulted by Jobs’ comments; from what I’ve read, he would say stuff like that to everybody who worked for him at times.

    1. Nice to see an “apple fan/Jobs fan” with a rational perspective–are you sure you are a “fan?” ;)

      People also need to realize that Jobs’ “vision” of things is just that, only his. It may be great to some and not to others even though he thought it was “perfect.” That does not mean everything else is “shit.”

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We all like different things and thankfully we still have choice in the world and hopefully we will continue to have many options available to use.

      1. ‘Nice to see an “apple fan/Jobs fan” with a rational perspective–are you sure you are a “fan?” ;)’

        I believe he refers to the writer.

  4. Very, very classy and wise response from Bill Gates. Even though Apple is at the top of the world now, they did have their time in the ditches. What Steve said of Bill Gates was just a bit of good-old practice of trashing the competition. Nothing personal. The world is better of because of these two great men.

  5. Rachid Amourgh Monday, October 31, 2011

    It’s seems that Bill is much much a kind person than steve jobs.He is professional and never says something bad or insulting about public people.

    1. Yes, at least in the public eye. I think Bill was a better entrepreneur and leader while Steve was a better innovator and product creator. I think…

      1. Todays Cnet story on the Courier is an interesting exclamation point on the two. Which path would Bill take, the safe monolithic Windows path or the insanely great Courier? No surprises here.

      2. I don’t think Bill had anywhere near the creative drive or vision of Steve. Steve’s overwhelming passion for life came from wanting to see his creations brought to life in perfect clarity, exactly as his imagination demanded. Steve didn’t seem to care too much about market domination, profits, or ‘conquering men and their souls’. He wanted to push his vision of technology from conception to reality, damn the economic constraints. He believed that if people saw his creations in the flesh, they could not settle for anything but. Anyone who gave him excuses, or tried to ‘compromise’ the visions he had for his creations, copped his full wrath. Steve’s creations were his babies; having them poorly and badly copied would have peeved him no end. At least, if you’re going to copy his creations, don’t turn them into horribly botched cancerous mutations. At least keep them beautiful!

        Bill, on the other hand, seemed more like one of the Caesars of old. He had to win. He wanted to conquer the tech world, and own everything in it. If someone made something better than what MS offered, they needed to be bought out, or if they would not submit to being absorbed into the Microsoft monolith, then they must be destroyed. It’s a far more egocentric world view; one where he didn’t care about the quality of the crap he pumped out, just as long as it was the only viable crap people could buy. Bill would trample his grandmother if she stood in between him & industry monopoly.

        disclaimer: I don’t own a Mac. I have 2 iPhones and an Apple Cinema Display. I have 4 windows PCs of varying ages & configurations, running Win2K, WinXP x 2, and Win7.

  6. bill_gates > steve_jobs

    1. You are going to have to show your work and mathematical proof otherwise your conclusion is irrelevant.

    2. See my comment above… I think bottom line, it’s a tie.

  7. I always cringe when anyone at Microsoft talks about the premium price of Apple products. As someone who has legally upgraded the operating system on both Windows and Mac OS X machines many times over the years, the latter has always cost me significantly less.

    Mac hardware is more expensive, but ragging on that is like the Ford Fiesta team ragging on the BMW 3 Series.

    Jobs’ opinions of Bill Gates were certainly harsh, though. Under his watch, Microsoft did an awful lot of innovating – they’re not successful on monopolistic brute force alone.

  8. Who gives a F**k what Steve Jobs had to say about anyone. He couldn’t even deliver a phone call.

  9. jim Blake needs to chill. He is probably one of those people who could never afford a mac as a kid and know hates them blindly. A computer is a computer, who cares what they cost. People buy what they like.

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