There were undoubtedly good times and bad times shared between the two rivaling tech-gurus Steve Jobs and Bill Gates over the years.
Both were directly responsible for bringing technology to its exceptional current state, and whilst the fiery Jobs had much to say of Microsoft-founding rival, there was always a mutual respect which, later on in Jobs’ life, blossomed into something similar to a friendship.
Both were young and highly-ambitious when progressing with their respective companies back in the 70’s, and not known for mincing his words, Jobs is quoted in his biography as calling out Gates for being "unimaginative" and someone who has "never invented anything". He concluded Gates’ lack of imagination was the sole reason for his transition from technology to philanthropy, and that he "shamelessly stole other people’s ideas".
In what many in tech would see as a fitting conclusion to a rivalry spanning four decades, Gates has recently spoken publicly about his final meetings with Jobs in which the pair grew somewhat close, exploring the paralleling common ground they shared.
When Gates discovered the implications about Jobs’ failing health, he wrote him a rather poignant letter:
I told Steve about how he should feel great about what he had done and the company he had built. I wrote about his kids, whom I had got to know…There was no peace to make. We were not at war. We made great products, and competition was always a positive thing. There was no [cause for] forgiveness.
After Jobs’ passing in October of last year, Gates was called by Jobs’ wife Laurene Powell thanked him for the letter, and suggested her late husband’s biography didn’t accurately reflect the huge respect between the two.
He went on to heap praise on Jobs, continuing:
“Steve was an incredible genius who contributed immensely to the field I was in. We had periods, like the early Macintosh, when we had more people working on it than they did. And then we were competitors. The personal computers I worked on had a vastly higher [market] share than Apple until really the last five or six years, where Steve’s very good work on the Mac and on iPhones and iPads did extremely well. It’s quite an achievement, and we enjoyed each [other’s work]….He spent a lot of his time competing with me. There are lots of times when Steve said [critical] things about me. If you took the more harsh examples, you could get quite a litany.
There’s a saying; "best of friends, keenest of rivals," and whilst both were never what you would describe as best friends, and while some of the things said – particularly by Jobs – were somewhat defamatory, both did acknowledge the achievements of the other.
You might like to also check out our post from Wednesday, in which Gates fondly reflects on his final meetings with Jobs in an interview with Yahoo – it’s well worth the watch and definitely shows the softer side of Gates and his respect for Steve as a friend.
To read the full letter, head over to this link.
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