The Bill Gates/Steve Jobs relationship will undoubtedly be the subject of many more books and movies than it already has. On Sunday's 60 Minutes program, Bill Gates unthreaded a few more strands of the interaction between the two famous frenemies.
He told reporter Charlie Rose that the two technology pioneers "grew up together," nearly the same age and "naively optimistic" as they built very large companies. Their companies were sometimes allied, as when Microsoft continued to release Office software for the occasionally struggling Mac platform, and sometimes rivals, in the desktop platform wars and now in the platform wars.
Gates said that the two "retained a great respect" for each other, and, when Jobs fell ill, Gates said he "got to go down and spend time with him." The Microsoft founder become emotional when Rose asked what they had discussed during those visits, to which Gates replied "about what we'd learned, about families, anything."
Gates added that Jobs showed him "the boat he was working on," and Jobs said he was looking forward to spending time on it, "even though we both knew there was a good chance that wouldn't happen."
The 60 Minutes story also looked at Gates' primary work-related focus these days, his foundation's efforts to battle such diseases as tuberculosis and malaria in emerging countries. But that post-Microsoft charitable effort also factored into Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, in which Jobs said Gates "is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he's more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology."
In that book, Jobs added that Gates just "shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas," a clear reference to Windows' resemblance to the Mac's revolutionary interface. In an interview with ABC News in October of 2011, Gates shrugged off such criticism and said that "Steve and I worked together creating the Mac," because of the Office software. Gates added that "none of that bothers me at all."
In the 60 Minutes interview, Gates gave some praise to his friend and rival. The interview included footage of earlier interviews, in which Gates had said that Apple "put the pieces together" on tablets, after Microsoft had tried tablets without much success, and he cited Jobs' "sense of design" as one thing Jobs had that Gates wished he had. He said that everything Jobs did "had to fit a certain aesthetic," and that Jobs could develop "phenomenal products" even though he had as "little engineering background as he had."
'Knew About Brand'
The Microsoft co-founder also noted that the Apple co-founder "knew about brand, in a very positive sense," and possessed "an intuitive sense of marketing that was amazing."
In addition to their brilliance in building their giant companies, both Gates and Jobs were known for the withering scorn they could heap on fellow workers, and neither have been considered easy to work with. But Gates showed his maturing side in the interview, such as when he noted his work in using a chunk of his $67 billion fortune to fight diseases.
"Whenever you see a mother bringing a sick child into a facility it's easy to relate to, 'what if that was my child?' " He added that you "realize how crazy it is" that many people can afford "frivolous things" but the world can't afford those "basic things."