updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon October 31, 2011
Gates says he understands Jobs views
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in an interview with ABC on Sunday downplayed Steve Jobs' criticisms of him as published in Walter Isaacson's Jobs biography. Reacting to Jobs' claims that Gates was "unimaginative" and "weirdly flawed as a human being," Gates thought it was "very understandable" that Jobs felt the way he did. There were points at which the Mac's very existence was in doubt as its relatively high price and one main OEM had to compete against many Windows PC makers, suggesting a lot of pressure as well as a level of give and take in Jobs' views.
"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," Gates said. "At various times, he felt beleaguered. He felt like he was the good guy and we were the bad guys."
Gates added that Microsoft was partly responsible for the Mac's early days. "We had more people on it, [we] did the key software for it," he said.
The claim stems mostly from Microsoft's earliest versions of Office apps for the Mac. At the time, Microsoft was one of the Mac's biggest supporters and brought Word, Excel, and Powerpoint to the Mac years before they would appear in Windows. As Windows took off, however, Microsoft began letting the Mac version slip, only taking the platform more seriously again in the last few years.
Microsoft can also take credit for helping Steve Jobs turn Apple around as he became its interim and later permanent CEO. While the move earned jeers, Microsoft's $150 million investment and promises of Office support in 1997 helped keep Apple alive.
Gates' comments are still unusually placid given that the investment may have ultimately cost Microsoft some of its once unassailable position. While the Mac is still much smaller than Windows in market share, it's now growing several times faster than the roughly immobile PC market. Later on, Apple also ended up locking Microsoft out of MP3 players and dethroning it in smartphones.
The most symbolic upset came at the end of 2010, when Apple in nine months sold more tablets than all of Microsoft's Windows Tablet PC partners combined had sold in eight years. Gates had been the key architect of Tablet PC and had insisted on a pen-based desktop OS metaphor that never gained broad acceptance and stayed in niche markets. At one point, he was convinced the iPad would fail simply because it didn't have a pen or keyboard.