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Bill Gates calm on Jobs criticism, takes part credit for Mac

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Gates did help save Apple

    I'll give him that...

  1. slboett

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No, Gates & MS did not "save" Apple...

    It was symbolic, and did not save Apple. OTOH, MS was there at the beginning, and the apps were good. It was too bad it sorta fell through, but Apple is likely lucky that happened else it would be just another beige box maker instead of what it is today. They're simply tow different companies only sharing the PC space - Apple and MS are otherwise worlds apart - and that's fine. They both have their place...

  1. davidlfoster

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple returned some love...

    Perhaps their antitrust woes might have resulted in a bit more than a slap on the wrist if Apple had faded away instead of persisted as a competitor.

  1. jpellino

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Well, no...

    MS paid Apple and settled the bickering, but it was basically the first installment to settle a lawsuit. Apple was "saved" by focus, not just cash.

  1. ebeyer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The truth is that no one person can claim credit for all of the amazing advances Apple has made over the years. Yes, Steve made intuitive judgements about the user experience, judgements which guided the creation of many of Apple's best products; the "sunflower" iMac G4 and the original iBook G3 spring to mind.

    Other people and companies made huge contributions as well. FreeBSD forms the basis of much of OS X. And Apple contributed back a bunch of the code it made to that project. One can question whether or not Microsoft "saved" Apple, but they made a cash infusion at a critical time in Apple's history and supported MSIE at a time when open source alternative browsers were still fledgling and Safari had yet to be introduced.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I agree with both

    MS software made the Mac a "real" computer in the eyes of many customers in the very early days. Also when MS invested the $150m in '97 it told the rest of the industry that Apple could survive. That was an immeasurable help. In both ways MS was essential to the survival to Apple at several key moments.

    However Jobs is right about Gates being "unimaginative". Look at his early books. Look at the famous quotes that are scattered around the web. From not knowing why anyone would need a system with himem, to dismissing the internet as a fad, to asserting that nobody would want to use a GUI, and many more, MS under Gates has missed the boat continuously. If they did not have the Win/Office cash cow they would have folded years ago. They could afford to just buy up small companies with good ideas and then re-brand the product as their own (IE for example). This happened throughout the '90s and I believe is still happening today. Look at one of MS's key products. Windows is a copy of the Mac. They admitted as much in court but still prevailed because their contract with Apple did not prevent them from copying. Gates and MS lead to a standardization of the computer industry, but have never been leaders. They have never been groundbreaking.

  1. Stoli89

    Joined: Dec 1969


    One of history's greatest philanthropists

    Gates may not be the perfect person according to Jobs, but the fact is that he has devoted more of his personal fortune to charity than any other man in history, with the exception of Warren Buffet (who also pledged just over 30 Billion to Bill And Melinda Gates' charitable foundation).

  1. qazwart

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Microsoft did help the Mac and Apple

    Steve Jobs admits that Apple was desperate for the cash when Microsoft "invested" in Apple during the iCEO phase. Apple needed the money, and it's highly unlikely that Apple's suit would have succeeded by the time Apple would have had to declare bankruptcy, if at all.

    The investment helped Microsoft out by showing it wasn't a "monopoly" because another desktop OS did exist. Without that money, Jobs admits that Apple would have gone bankrupt.

    However, I think the deal helped Steve Jobs in another way too. Jobs and Gates have had a troubled relationship. The fact that Jobs could go to Microsoft, more or less beg for the money, and not throw a tantrum showed the business world that Steve Jobs had matured as a boss and was capable of running Apple.

    I've always wondered why Jobs was so hesitant to take the reigns at Apple and did the whole iCEO shuffle. We all pretty much expected he'd take that slot. After all, who else would take it if Jobs was there?

    I now realize that Jobs was hesitant about becoming CEO because it might actually have hurt Apple. Who would have trusted a petulant little boy running a billion dollar business, let alone having the actual ability to turn it around? Jobs showed the investment community he could be trusted. He did what he had to do to save Apple even though it must have been fairly distasteful coming to Gates hat in hand.

    The fact he had Gates (or at least the head of Gates) appear at the Macworld announcing the investment, then calmed down the fanboys who jeered Gates proved this wasn't the same Jobs who was tossed so ignobly out of Apple a mere decade earlier.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. donmontalvo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bill Gates is an idiot

    A very, very rich idiot. But an idiot none the less.

  1. lkrupp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    The drivel posted here so far demonstrates the roll of professional historians to set the record straight. The importance or irrelevance of Microsoft 's cash "infusion" depends on the bias of the one responding to it doesn't it? There has been so much FUD spread around over the years about Apple and Microsoft and the history of the personal computer industry that the truth is obscured by all the b.s.

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