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Steve Jobs to Bill Gates: Thanks for saving Apple

There has always been a great debate about who’s better, Microsoft or Apple? At one stage, it was a bit like that ridiculous question, “who’d win in a fight, Batman or Superman?” We all know it’s Batman. But the debate never really settled between Apple and Microsoft fanatics. On August 18, 1997, however, Steve Jobs appeared on the cover of TIME magazine thanking Bill Gates.

It’s hard to believe really. These two were the loudest and largest competitors in the tech world, but Jobs’ gratefulness was genuine. Gates had just saved Apple – hence the cover text; “Bill, thank you. The world’s a better place”.

In relation to tech history, this really is a memorable moment, which shows a side to both Gates and Jobs that we wouldn’t have seen before. At the time, Apple was in trouble. They were losing money and things were not looking good for the company. Such was the love of Jobs for his company that he went to Bill Gates and asked him and Microsoft, their largest competitor, to help them out.

This was Gates’ chance to get rid of the competition, to take even more market share. But, ever the smart businessman, perhaps Gates realised that healthy competition can actually be good for business. Microsoft invested $150,000 million into Apple for non-voting shares. As part of this deal, Apple gained permission to use Microsoft Office within their systems. The deal also settled a legal dispute between the two companies regarding Windows possibly infringing on some Apple-owned patents.

The investment was announced at a Macworld Expo in 1997. Some of the news from Steve Jobs at the event was met with boos. Bill Gates also appears via satellite at the event. The video below shows the event. Talk about the investment starts at circa 26 minutes. 

Steve Jobs – “This is about getting Apple healthy”

At the event, Steve Jobs also attempts to dispel the notion of “for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job. And, if others are going to help us, that’s great. Because we need all the help we can get. If we screw up and don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault. It’s our fault”. He concluded on the matter by saying, “the era of setting this up as a competition between Apple and Microsoft is over as far as I’m concerned. This is about getting Apple healthy.”

This investment allowed Apple the space to grow, and that they did. In fact, Microsoft is currently valued at $830 billion. However, Apple, who trailed in value behind Microsoft by a country mile, is now worth more than Microsoft, with a reported valuation on August 2, 2018, of $1 trillion.

Image of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to the right of title image above taken by Joi Ito. Licenced under creative commons.

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