D5 Live: No fight--Gates and Jobs ponder the past and the future

D5 Live: No fight--Gates and Jobs ponder the past and the future

Summary: The highlight of the D: All Things Digital conference featured Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on stage together, with event co-hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher as referees.The best line of the night came when Swisher asked the two what was the greatest misunderstanding about their relationship.


The highlight of the D: All Things Digital conference featured Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on stage together, with event co-hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher as referees.

The best line of the night came when Swisher asked the two what was the greatest misunderstanding about their relationship. Jobs quipped, "We've kept our marriage secret for over a decade."


It was more like a Rock & Roll hall of fame induction honoring the two legends than a verbal battle over past and present deeds, such as Apple's current ad campaign that disparages Windows.

The two billionaires have mostly been rivals over the past three decades, although in 1984 Gates said that Microsoft expected to get half of its revenue from the Macintosh, which was just introduced.

They grew up in the computer industry together, each taking a different path, and ending up as the two most seminal figures in the personal computer revolution.

Gates built a behemoth with pervasive market share and $297.62 billion in market cap as of today, while Jobs built his reputation on the first Apple computers, the Macintosh, iPod, Pixar and maybe the iPhone, and his company crossed the $100 billion market cap threshold today.

Jobs, who turned 52 in February, and Gates, turning the same age in October, were asked what they thought each of them contributed to the industry. "Bill built the first software company and was really focused on software before anyone else....that's the high-order bit," Jobs said.

Gates lauded Jobs for betting the company on the Mac. "The team that Steve built even within the company to pursue the Mac was risky. Steve gave a speech once that "we build the products that we want to have ourselves."

Jobs interrupted Gates to tell the story about his co-founder Steve Wozniak writing a BASIC language for Apple machines. "It was perfect but wasn't supporting floating point.....and he never did it.... he wrote it by hand on paper and never got around to making it floating point...he just never did," Jobs said. Jobs then went to Microsoft for help, Gates flew down from Seattle to Cupertino and Apple paid $31,000 for Microsoft's BASIC.

Gates said the most fun was during the early Macintosh days. "We bet our future on the Macintosh being successful and the graphic user interface being successful," Gates said. He added that working together on schedules, quality and pricing was challenging. He thought the price was going to be much cheaper than it ended up.

Jobs said, "What's interesting to remember is Microsoft wasn't in the applications business at the time the Mac came along." At that time Microsoft just had Multiplan for the Apple II, Gates said. The original Mac OS requirement for the applications was 14K, Jobs said, on the 128K Macintosh.


After Jobs was forced out of the company, Apple wasn't differentiating itself from higher volume platforms--DOS and Windows, Gates said. "When the 386 chip came, the paradigm bet paid off on GUIs. After 512K Mac was done the product line didn't evolve as fast as it needed to. We were negotiating with [then Apple CEO] Gil Amelio to invest [in Apple], but then Steve called and said don't worry about Gil, negotiate with me."

Jobs, who replaced Amelio for his second term as CEO, quoted a slogan from Amelio to great laughter: "Apple is a ship with hole in the bottom and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction." When he returned to Apple, Jobs found that Apple was in serious trouble.

"Apple invented a lot of stuff and Microsoft was successful and Apple wasn't. There was resentment, and there were too many people in Apple who thought that for Apple to win Microsoft had to lose. Apple had to remember who Apple was. They had forgotten who Apple was. It was important to break that paradigm," Jobs said. He decided to call Gates and patch things up between the two companies.

The two briefly jousted about the current Apple ads. Jobs said that the commercials were artfully made: "The PC guy is what makes it all work," he said to more laughter.

Jobs explained how Apple's big secret is that it views itself as a software company...like Microsoft. "It's a little bit competitive...and we are happy when our market share goes up by a point." Of course, Apple enjoys its lead with the iPod and building hardware. Jobs quoted former Apple Fellow Alan Kay, "People who love software want to do their own hardware." Gates noted that Microsoft does its own hardware and software for prototyping and in special cases, such as the Zune and Xbox, does both.

Regarding Jobs' legendary product vision, Gates said, "I would give a lot to have Steve's taste. In terms of intuitive taste for people and products, I sat in Mac product reviews...and look at it as an engineering question. I see Steve make decisions based on people and products--it's magical."

Jobs said he admired Gates and Microsoft's ability to partner. "Because Woz and I started the company based on doing the whole banana, we weren't good at partnering, whereas Bill and Microsoft were good at it. If Apple had more of that in its DNA, it would have served us extremely well. We didn't learn that until a few decades later.

Gates was asked about his philanthropic legacy and was typically modest about his second career, and said his brain is filled with software. Jobs nailed it when asked if he had any envy of Gates' achievements: "I think world is a better place because the goal is not to be richest guy in the cemetery. I was brought up middle class and never cared much about money. Apple was successful early and then I was able to focus on work and then family. We found what we love to do and we were at the right time and place. It's hard to be happier than that. What more can you ask. I don't think about legacy, but about going to work and creating great stuff."

The two shared a similar vision for the combination of rich clients and Internet services, and that the PC will continue to play an important role. Jobs believes the major innovations will come from post-PC products, like the iPod and iPhone. "In the PC you have to temper thinking. You have tens of millions in our case or hundreds of millions of users in Bill's case....Users don't want to drive with a joystick...they like the steering wheel.... The radical rethinking will happen in post-PC devices," Jobs said.

Mossberg asked about a new paradigm for the PC interface, beyond folders and the graphical metaphors that have been on the PC for the last two decades, which grew out of work at Xerox Parc. Gates pointed to touch, ink, speech and vision as new elements to apply to the user experience, but not as a radical substitute for what we have today. Natural interfaces, such as speech, and 3D will be revolutionary, he said.

Jobs concluded, in talking about his relationship with Gates, that in the early days he was generally the youngest guy in the room. Now he is the oldest. "I think of most things in life as Bob Dylan or Beatles songs," Jobs said. For he and Gates, Jobs partially quoted the Beatles song "Two of Us": "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead."

Video from the Gates/Jobs convergence at D

Read Scott Rosenberg's insightful take on the Gate and Jobs show. It tells the whole story.

The full transcript of the interview

Topics: Apple, Hardware, IT Employment

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  • Typos

    The typos in this article are annoying. That's my in-depth analysis.
  • Who edited this article

    I have never seen so many grammatical errors, missing words, and typos in a professionally written article. C'mon guys, you can do better than that. Proof read the darn thing before you publish it.
  • Ahh, nice to see two people

    who may view each other as enemies more so in the minds of the people who evangelize them, as they look back on a shared past. Kind of gets the zealots right in the ole heart. . . . No, . . no, don't send them EMTs, just let em choke on shared roots, and that its all just computing and human beings. Yep, good times.
  • ZdNeT caint' SpEell!

    Reel Profassunel Guiz!
    Reverend MacFellow
  • hukt on foniks werkt 4 me!

    This article needs to be proof read by the writer, not the readers.
  • They DO look like "PC" and "MAC" :)

  • Future

    Question: which of the two built a company likely to continue beyond its principal founder? The one who has a feel for people and what they like, or the one who has a feel for making and selling software?

    In Microsoft's case, Mr. Ballmer is treating software as a product, concentrating on markets. And having a great deal of success. That means the company can continue as a maker and marketer of software even after he leaves.

    But a consumer marketing company like Apple may last only as long as it has available the abilities that led to its success in the first place.

    So maybe, looking at them onstage, it was possible to see that just as Bill Gates's decision to sell to the mass market made Microsoft far more successful in the past, the company's approach to software production gives it a greater likelihood of success when both Jobs and Gates are retired.
    Anton Philidor
  • Apple a software company?

    The company that wouldn't license OS X, even killing clones? The company that had to give up on its own effort to write an operating system, and start from a BSD base? The company that still relies on Microsoft for applications?

    Anton Philidor
    • I don't know about that

      To me software is things like I-Tunes and Quicktime. The OS while it is software is something I don't really class as software. It's more in line with the hardware. The lawyer that sits between you and the hardware that allow you to run all that great software.
    • The bulk of OS X is openBSD!

      It's not often when the maxim "You get what you pay for" throws a curve ball. With "Macintosh" PCs, it's a curve ball all right! Buy a real PC for hundreds less and plop any ol' Linux or open source BSD in it. It may not run true OS X apps, but plenty of open source alternatives exist.

      I think the other phrase, "Apple's days are numbered", are more accurate now than any other time in their history. Finally, and thankfully.
      • Apple's here to stay!

        Quit talking trash about Apple. So what it's BSD based. Mac os is far superior to Linux or BSD, and frankly open source programs can't touch Some of the software available for Mac.
    • What don't you understand here?

      ---Apple a software company?
      The company that wouldn't license OS X, even killing clones?---

      What does any of that have to do with being a software company? Do all software companies have to choose the same business model, license and sell their products the same way? Does it somehow negate the software that the company produces if they don't sell things the way the market leader does?
      tic swayback
      • A software company...

        ... sells software. To as many buyers as possible. Apple is acting to sell as much hardware as possible, hardware that it manufactures for itself. The software is being used as a reason to buy the hardware. It provides functionality.

        That was Steve Jobs' point about the iPod. A good looking way to deliver the functionality. That's still a hardware company. Nobody would buy the hardware if it did nothing.

        Of course, many other companies provide hardware which does the same thing. The competition is on the basis of brand, which in turn is sold on the basis of looks. Put it this way: if iPod looked exactly like Zune, would it continue to sell as well?

        IBM wants to sell more software and related services. Would you call IBM a software company?
        Anton Philidor
        • Again, you're trying to make everyone be Microsoft

          ---A software company...
          ... sells software.---

          Had you ended your post there, you might have had a reasonable point.

          ---To as many buyers as possible---

          Nope. Some companies sell high end products to large industries that can afford them. They could lower prices and try to sell to more people, but that's not their business plan. Not everyone has to be in the business of bulk sales. To use the dreaded car analogy, is Aston Martin not a car manufacturer because they aren't trying to sell cars to as many buyers as possible? They could make much cheaper cars and sell more of them.

          ---Put it this way: if iPod looked exactly like Zune, would it continue to sell as well?---

          Your whole argument is based upon a fallacy. The iPod sells because it works well, not because it looks any particular way. If the iPod looked like the Zune but worked just as well, it would still sell.

          ---IBM wants to sell more software and related services. Would you call IBM a software company?---

          Among other things, sure, why not? Do they make and sell software? Then they're a software company.
          tic swayback
  • Jobs: "We?ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade". Guess the reason

    Question for Mac fanatics:

    Does it mean that Jobs needed this secret to sell Apple's secrets to his "competitor" Gates and that now MS and Apple is one team with the one boss?

    Illusion of "deadly" competition was/is a favorite trick of power people/corporations. Now you know why Gates invested his millions in his dying ?deadly competitor? ? Apple. Because his friend regained his power in Apple = free sharing of intellectual properties in favor of Microsoft.

    It serves for the same purpose like the illusion that the Republican and Democrats are against each other. They serve the same bosses who buy elections (chosen corporations, organizations, ...). Thus the real source (man/men) of the World problems is still hidden.

    For example, G.W. Bush and his former ?opponent? from the Democrats John Kerry are cousins in the same secret Masonic organization ? "[i]Skull and Bones[/i]" and obey not the Americans, but their secret boss. (Is he the richest man on the planet?)

    Another example - now the Democrats made it looks like they are against the Bush?s war to direct money for the Americans instead of pockets of the ?oil? people from the administration. But at the end they ?suddenly? changed their mind.

    They do the most advanced psychological trickeries to fool the public and at least half of the public buy it very well.

    Why they cheat the public if they have all the power in the World? Because the real power are the people, not corporations/leaders. They won?t survive without support of the majority. For example, Hitler could of make tyranny without approval of the majority Germans, but he waited until the majority followed his ideas.

    Why this is so important to get energy from the majority? It?s too scientific to start it now and is not necessary.

    The most important is the people need to realize that they have hidden power to get a better life that being a ?sheep? for the ?slaughterhouse?. Everything they have to do is standing for their rights ... (of course they can do more). But if the people will do nothing - they do not deserve a better life.

    Nobody will stand for the people if the people won't stand for themselves.

    As you can imagine I have more to say, but let's start with this.
    Vily Clay
    • Queue Up The Twilight Zone Music

      do da do do...do da do do
    • what are you talking about???????

      Just for clarity sake, what the h are you talking about?
    • I can imagine you have more to say

      but if it doesn't make a lick of sense, is it worth saying?
      John Zern
      • So far replies only from guys who have nothing CONSCIOUS to say.

        So, haters of the people - can you prove using logic, valid arguments and common sense that what I wrote is BS?

        So far no one was able to do this.

        They believe that lacking of valid arguments, logic, knowledge, brains, etc. makes them smarter. Dream on.

        I so many times wrote here checkable evidences about why I have reasons to say so ... But if it?s necessary ? I?ll repeat it again ...

        "Chosen" haters of the people, if someone of you think you have any brains - show what you have, please.
        Vily Clay
    • There is some relevance to your words

      what people see day to day with government and business is the surface of what very rich and powerful men allow to be seen. A govt with a 4 yr president isn't really run by said president, it's shaped over the long term by powerful rich individuals and companies power brokering their continued influence and gains. People are just cogs, the majority, and have and make little impact on the grand scheme of things. Very little changes if it does not benefit such, politics, religion, economic and societal change, . . how often do a few people without such clout bring about change unless in massive numbers.

      It's even rich that a 'millionaire' today is no more an advocate of change because a million dollars doesn't even count as big leagues anymore. Guess Stevie and Billy are billionaires, they get to sit at the kids table at least during the holidays. :)