Bill Gates: Steve had more respect for me than you may think
While Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were huge rivals during their time at the top of the world’s biggest technology companies, they still managed to maintain a good friendship. Steve was always quick to point out the flaws in Microsoft’s products, but it seems that never came between them.
While it wasn’t always a rosy relationship, Gates revealed in a recent interview with British broadsheet The Telegraph that things changed shortly after the launch of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007. He recalls, “Steve and I did an event together, and he couldn’t have been nicer…I got a fair bit of time with him in his last year.”
Gates wrote a letter to Steve when he learned that he was sick, insisting that he should “feel great” about the work he’d done for Apple, and the products his company had produced:
“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.”
It seems that letter meant a lot to Steve. Shortly after he passed away last October, his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, told Gates that Walter Isaacson’s hugely popular biography on Steve did not accurately convey the mutual respect Steve had for him, and that the letter he wrote to Steve was kept by his bed:
“She said: ‘Look, this biography really doesn’t paint a picture of the mutual respect you had.’ And she said he’d appreciated my letter and kept it by his bed.”
Gates concludes by labeling Steve an “incredibly genius,” but acknowledges the fact that Steve often criticized him and his products:
“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.”
In another interview with Yahoo! and ABC News, Gates recounts his final conversation with Steve, during which they reminisced about their time at the top. Isaacson’s biography does not portray this friendship all that well, and it’s certainly a shame. Despite Steve’s criticisms, the pair clearly maintained a good friendship. That’s quite a commendable feat when you consider the circumstances.