Posted by: Blue Heavens | 31 May, 2007

When Bill met Steve…


By Peter Bowes
BBC News, in San Diego

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

Bill Gates (left) and Steve Jobs have a 30-year history

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs have appeared on stage together for the first time in more than two decades.

Billed as a public “conversation” between two giants of the computer industry, the event at the All Things Digital conference, hugely anticipated by technology buffs, was seen as a long overdue opportunity for two of the greatest pioneers in the industry to go head to head.

But would they re-live old feuds or shuffle uncomfortably in their seats if touchy subjects cropped up?

It was not to be. The question and answer session at the D: All Things Digital conference, turned out to be more of a love-in between old pals.

The pair reminisced about how their respective businesses had grown over the years.

Asked what Gates’ contribution to computing had been, Jobs said: “Bill built the first software company before anybody in our industry knew what software was, and that was huge.”

Returning the compliment, Gates said Jobs’ development of the Apple II computer in 1977 “was an incredibly empowering phenomenon.”

Changed little

Apart from a few wrinkles and receding hair, both Gates and Jobs seem to have changed little over the years – especially in the style department. Jobs, the showman, appeared unshaven in his trademark black turtleneck, jeans and trainers.

The more reserved Gates wore a striped, button-down shirt, slacks and black shoes.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable moment for the Microsoft chairman was when Apple’s current series of TV ads was introduced into the discussion.

The Mac vs PC commercials portray the PC as a somewhat portly and decidedly inept character.

Jobs, rather unconvincingly, said the point of the ads was not to be mean, rather for the guys to like each other.

Grimacing somewhat, Gates defended the PC character:

“His mother loves him.”

Asked to describe their visions of the future, Gates said in five years time, people would not depend on a single computer. They would have multiple devices, such as a tablet with “voice and ink”, along with “a phone, a pocket-sized device”.

Jobs predicted an “explosion” of what he described as “post-PC devices”, such as the iPod.

He said such devices represented “a clean slate” that lacked the legacy of many applications and are more focused.

“But you have to temper it, because you have users who don’t want a car with six wheels,” he added.

The event also generated some quick-witted humour. Asked to define the greatest misunderstanding in their relationship, Steve Jobs said: “We’ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade now.”

Responding to a question from the audience about his charitable work, the Microsoft chairman said developing the PC had led him to create his charitable foundation to benefit people “who haven’t had technology, including medicine, working for them”.

The discussion ended with Gates predicting that things that are currently the stuff of science fiction will, eventually, come true.

It was session that clearly inspired the audience of computer professionals and enthusiasts.

“I thought it was a moment of distilled history,” said Nina Lytton, a computer consultant.

“It telescoped their experience as friends, partners, competitors and creative problem solvers over a 30-year period.”

Arthur Ceria, who works for a start-up company in San Francisco, described the conversation as “inspiring and historical”.

“You had two of the biggest figures in Silicon Valley coming together and giving us their insight… here they are as myth and gods and the audience was there to witness that.”

“They have such a respect for one another and it was visible.”



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