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Microsoft e-mails show Gates' praise for Jobs and iTunes

updated 08:15 pm EST, Tue February 9, 2010

Separate exec claims "we were smoked"

Following the stir created by ex-Microsoft executive Dick Brass, who recently claimed the company had become an "uncompetitive innovator," attention has returned to internal e-mails that were made public during an antitrust lawsuit several years ago. The legal blog Groklaw has sifted through many of the documents, uncovering a message from 2003 showing Bill Gates' praise for Steve Jobs and iTunes.

"Steve Jobs ability to focus in on a few things that count, get people who get user interface right and market things as revolutionary are amazing things," Gates told several executives. "This time somehow he has applied his talents in getting a better Licensing deal than anyone else has gotten for music."

Gates continued by expressing the need for Microsoft to catch up. "Now that Jobs has done it we need to move fast enough to get something where the UI and Rights are as good," he said.

"I am not sure what the problems are," Gates added. "I think we need some plan to prove that even though Jobs has us a bit flat footed again we move quick and both match and do stuff better."

"We were smoked," Jim Allchin admitted in a response to Gates' inquiry.

Despite Microsoft's dominant position in many markets, the company has been criticized by Brass and analysts for lacking innovation and falling behind its competitors. Lackluster performance has been observed in product categories such as smartphones, gaming consoles and Internet browsers, among others.

Microsoft corporate communications head Frank Shaw quickly refuted Brass' stance, claiming the company should be judged by its "broader impact."

by MacNN Staff



  1. appleuzr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    wow... not even the man who started Microsoft can spin their incompetence into something positive. I love it.

  1. coffeetime

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Steve Ballmer


  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Gates and Jobs

    Two different approaches, both visionaries though. Gates is man enough to admit and I think Jobs is too. The people under Gates, maybe a different story. Jobs is inspirational. If you don't like the way he runs things, leave, leave fast and don't complain. When Jobs makes a mistake it is very costly. When some engineer does so, it's not as big of a deal, just ego and pride mostly take the hit.
    These guys did what they did with minimal college education. Certainly, many examples, about the myth of a college education except in certain fields.
    The competition between MS and Apple has proven to be better for Apple. Jobs was bold and took on some big cats--people who, even though in high positions, are much more afraid of him than vice versa. AT&T made money by letting their pride guard down--Verizon talked tough but didn't win. That idiot from McGraw Hill--has he been heard from again after exposing the iPod?
    Jobs had this really "weird vision/idea thing" about what people really wanted and it wasn't just another X pounds of PC worth on their desk.
    I wonder how many companies have changed their marketing models? My guess: probably few because they believe Apple is the exception. Well, instead, THEY may become the extinction.

  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    judged by its "broader impact."

    like how they lead in enabling viruses, trojan horses, and number of bugs needing fixes.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No sympathy here

    "Microsoft corporate communications head Frank Shaw quickly refuted Brass' stance, claiming the company should be judged by its "broader impact."

    Having just spent a couple of hours debugging a Win Server problem in the middle of the night, I'm not sure I'm too impressed with MS's 'broader impact'.

  1. grawlix

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Gates' email is interesting. He doesn't seem willing to roll up his sleeves to assist in finding a counter to Steve Jobs. Even though he's an engineer at heart, he has identified the problem but offers no solution.

    Little wonder then that a self-promoting sales guy like Steve BallMe is clueless as to how to compete with Apple.

  1. JulesLt

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Better stuff

    "we need some plan to prove that even though Jobs has us a bit flat footed again we move quick and both match and do stuff better"

    Of course, the starting point here would be actually moving quicker and delivering better solutions. It can't have escaped Gates notice that his firm does neither.

    "Even though he's an engineer at heart, he has identified the problem but offers no solution"

    If it was an engineering problem, he probably would - but this is a management or political problem, and it goes deep. They had the same issues in the 80s - Windows was years behind every other OS.

    If you compare Jobs with Gates, and especially if you think of Pixar as well as Apple and NeXT, you see that Jobs has always been driven by an urge for technical excellence, and had always been good at managing a team to deliver that - what he's had to learn over the years has been how to marry that with business success.

    On the other hand, with Gates, he was obviously the better businessman early on, but I don't think he's ever shown a strong managerial side. He wants better results, but doesn't know how to get them.

    The only time this will change is when the stock market turns on them - look at both Apple and IBM and you will see that the transformation into the firms they are today happened when their stock was at bottom, and they had massive purges of staff and management. They had freedom to reinvent their business. No one gets to do that in a successful business, because the stock market rarely looks at your long term strategy.

  1. slapppy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The turning point

    I think the turning point is when Microsoft Big a** Table gets mass adoption.

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Time for Gates to come back and save his company

    Steve Ballmer is running MSFT into the ground. Gates might not be as "cool" but he is smart enough to know that and I think he could hire the right kind of people if he took another chance.

    I think we need a MSFT that can compete on merit against Apple to push Apple to go even further.

  1. Berndog

    Joined: Dec 1969


    R & D

    Besides the mouse and maybe powerpoint what has MS done that Apple didn't do first?
    Maybe they could spend more on their own R & D and less on legally squelching the competition! They are the biggest corporate entity out there - one would expect them to be on the wave with everyone else, only with the best boards. I challenge you MicroSoft... Hang-ten and see where it takes you. Good sailing.

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