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Posted on: Sunday, 05 June 2011 by Rajiv Popat

PC and Mac arguments have existed since the beginning of the software development world. Zealots have spent countless decades arguing about who will rule the world, the PC or the Mac. Jokes about Windows and Mac have also existed for a long time. Videos of both Windows crashes and Mac crashes have been out there for years.

With a strong community of Zealots on both ends of the spectrum you're often left to wonder what the relationship between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would be like. Arch enemies wanting to get each others organization destroyed like you see in movies? Not really.

In a series of videos on youtube (links provided at the end of the post) you see both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on the same stage sharing an interview. The amazing thing about the videos is that they provide a deep insight the pragmatism that both these leaders of two rival organizations share.

The even more amazing thing about the videos is that you can see a strong unspoken respect for each other that both these individuals share. For example when asked to talk on one thing in Bill Gates that Steve Jobs admires Steve has this to say:

Bill built the first software company in the industry. I think he built a software company before anybody in our industry knew what a software company was, except for these guys and that was huge. That was really huge. And the business model they ended up pursuing turned out to be the one that worked really well for the industry.

Building a company is really hard and it requires your greatest persuasive abilities to hire the best people you can and keep them at your company and keep them working doing the best work of their lives and Bill's been able to stay with it for all these years.

Gates on the other hand has deep rooted respect for the contributions Steve Jobs has made to the industry. He explains:

Steve gave a speech once which is one of my favorites where he talked about, in a certain sense we build the products that we want to use ourselves so he is really pursued that with incredible taste and elegance that has had a huge impact on the industry and his ability to always come around and figure out where that next bet should be has been phenomenal. You know, Apple literally was failing when Steve went back and re-infused the innovation and the risk taking that have been phenomenal. So the industry has benefitted immensely from his work. We've both been lucky to be a part of it but I'd say he has contributed as much as anyone.

If you listen closely enough the interview is full of pragmatic moves these leaders and their organizations have taken in spite of their age old rivalry.

For example Jobs tells the story of how Apple seeks help from Microsoft in their early days.

Jobs interrupts Bill Gates in a fit of excitement and the words, "Let me tell this story!" and goes on to tell it in his classic story teller style:

Waz, my partner, the guy I started out with Steve Wozniak, brilliant brilliant guy. He writes this basic that is like the best basic on the planet. It does stuff that no other basic has ever done. You don't have to run it to find your error messages, it finds it for you when you type in stuff. It's perfect in every way. Except for one thing which is that it is just fixed point. It is not floating point. And so we're getting a lot of  input that people want this basic to be floating point and we're begging Waz, Please Please make this floating point and he never does it. And so Microsoft had this very popular floating point basic that we ended up going to them and saying "help".

To which Bill Gates adds:

It was thirty one thousand dollars for the floating point basic and I flew out to Apple; I spent two days there getting the cassettes. The Cassette tapes were the main way people stored things in those days. That was fun but I think the most fun is later when we worked together. The team that was assembled to do the Macintosh was a very committed team and there was an equivalent team on our side that got totally focused on this activity. And we really bet our future on the Macintosh being successful and then hopefully graphic interface in general being successful. First and foremost the thing that would popularize that would be the Macintosh. And we were working together and the schedules were uncertain, the quality was uncertain. And so we had made this bet that the paradigm shift would be graphics interface and particularly the Macintosh would make that happen.

The video shows how objectively and closely the two companies and their leaders worked to shape the industry and make it what it is today. When asked about what both would like to learn from each others Bill Gates is quick to respond and say "I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste". What Bill Gates is referring to is this video of a young Steve Jobs floating on YouTube where Jobs is seen ranting recklessly on Microsoft and why they have no taste in his early adamant days. The audience roars into a laughter at Bills Gates joke on Steve Jobs to which Gates adds:

(I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste) No, this is not a joke at all.... I think in terms of intuitive taste of both people and products. I mean we sat on Mac product reviews where there were questions about software choices, how things would be done that I viewed as an engineering question and that's just how my mind works and I would see Steve make the decision based on his sense of people and product that is even hard for me to explain. The way he does things is just different. And you know, I think it is magical.

The videos are an inspirational insight into a rich rivalry which is not just about brutal fights but also about helping each other in the times of trouble and making the most pragmatic decisions beneficial for the industry.

Steve Jobs for example tells his story of seeking help from Microsoft during his comeback where he  also talks about how descriptive and stupid the whole Apple is superior in everything or the whole Apple Vs Microsoft mindset is:

You know, Apple was in very serious trouble and what was really clear was that if the game was a zero some game where for Apple to win Microsoft had to loose then Apple was going to loose.

A lot of people's head were in that place at Apple and even in the customer base because Apple had invented a lot of this stuff and Microsoft was being successful and Apple wasn't and there was jealousy and there were just a lot of reasons for it that don't matter.

But the net result of it was that there were too many people at Apple and the Apple ecosystem playing the game of 'For Apple to win Microsoft has to loose' and it was clear that you didn't have to play that game. Because Apple wasn't going to be Microsoft. Apple didn't have to beat Microsoft. Apple had to remember who Apple was, because it had forgotten who Apple was. And so for me it was pretty essential to break that paradigm. And it was also important that Microsoft was the biggest software developer outside of Apple developing for the Mac.

So it was just crazy, what was happening in that time and apple was very weak and so I called Bill (Gates) up and we tried to patch things up.

The relationship between the Mac development team at Microsoft and Apple is a great relationship. It's one of our best developer relationships.

Then there are excellent displays of pragmatism on both sides. For example, Microsoft ordering Mac processors for their XBox 360 and Steve Jobs being realistic about the Apple market share. He explains:

We don't have a belief that the Mac is going to take 80% of the PC market. We become really happy when our market share goes up a point. And we love that. We work real hard at it.

By the time the interview ends both these Stalwarts come out sounding as not just rivals with deep respect for each others but friends who have fought just as many battles together as they have fought with each other.

The video is a good watch not just once but every time you find yourself bitching about either Windows or Macintosh. The videos act as a gentle reminder that real people who do real work and solve hard problems have equal level of respect for other people who do the same irrespective of the path they take.

On the other hand, those who do nothing, bitch or become Zealots and stupid fan boys who fail to see the downsides of the company or person they follow and continuously bitch about the other side.

So go out there, pick a platform you love working on. I don't care if you pick a Windows or a Mac. Just stop bitching about how bad the other side is, stop comparing the two and get down to doing some real work. Jokes or random criticism about the other platform are just not as funny as they used to be once. Besides, we are getting bored of these anyways. I am just saying.

And just in case you want to see the videos back to back here are the links:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11.

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