Saturday, January 1, 2011

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: Historic discussion live from D 2007 i am legend

We kind of never thought we'd see the day where Mac and PC voluntarily shared the stage on neutral ground, but that day is today. Very soon Bill Gates and Steve Jobs -- both pioneering execs that need absolutely no introduction -- will sit up in front of the audience here at D and discuss god knows what. Don't miss this, people, who knows if this will happen again in any of our lifetimes. You'll know when we get started. Who's got odds that they don't walk out and say "Hi, I'm a PC." "Hi, I'm a Mac."?

We're in! They're playing the Beatles, just like they did when Jobs came out the first time.

Update: Video recap online! Right after the break, but before the rest of our coverage.

Definitely a full house, people are tense. "Are they going to fight?" Oh c'mon, they're old pals. Kind of. Here we go! Lights are dim, it's super dramatic. They're showing a video of a 1983 Apple event featuring Fred Gibbons, Mitch Kapor, and, of course Bill Gates.
"During 1984 Microsoft expects to get half of its revenues from Macintosh software."

1991 Jobs and Gates, photographed together. 1997, Jobsnote in which Gates appears on-screen via satellite. Jobs: "Relationships that are destructive don't help anybody." Gates gets cheers and jeers. "The era of setting Apple and Microsoft up in competition is over." Not quite Steve, but close! 2007 - TOGETHER HERE NOW.

They're on stage! And shaking hands!
They're recognizing notable technologists... Mitch Kapor, etc. And here they go. What do you think each has contributed to the tech industry? Steve: Bill built the first software company. That was huge. Bill's been able to stay with it for all these years. Bill: First, I want to clarify, I'm NOT Fake Steve Jobs. What Steve's done is quite phenomenal. Bill: Steve said once, we build the products we want to use ourselves, and he's done that with incredible taste and elegance. Apple literally was failing before Steve went back. Steve: We've also both been incredibly lucky to have great partners that we started the companies with. Great people, he says.

They look totally comfortable up there together! But no I'm a PC / I'm a Mac thing though. Ah well. Walt mentions an old print ad: "Thousands of people have discovered the Apple computer." Steve: We had some very strange ads back then... Walt: Most people don't know that there was some MS software in that first Apple computer!

Gates is sooo reminiscing, talking about Altairs and Woz and floating point -- Jobs interrupts. Jobs: Let me tell the story! [Huge laughter.] Chatting about Woz not authoring floating-point BASIC -- Microsoft sold Apple their floating-point BASIC app for $31,000. The trip, apparently, was fun! Walt wants to know what was the most fun, though. Talking about the original Mac... Bill: What Steve had planned was intended to be a LOT more money. Steve kind of gave the eh-whatchagonna do look. Much laughter.

22k for the screenbuffer, 14k for the OS. Hot damn that's an advanced machine. Talking about Mac apps and the like... Kara: What'd you think was going to happen to Apple after Steve left? Bill: Apple's fate hung in the balance! Bill: The debate wasn't Mac vs. Windows, it was CLI vs GUI. We were looking to invest... with Gil Amelio. laughter. Steve has a big big grin. "Don't worry about that negotiation with Gil Amelio anymore." laughter. Steve: Gil had a saying, "Apple is like a ship with holes in the bottom leaking water. My job is to get that ship pointed in the right direction." Huge laughter. Bill is talking about the virtues of Windows 95, Steve is looking on biting his lip -- not grumpily though, if you can picture it.

Steve: Apple was in very serious trouble.... a zero sum game. Apple invented a lot of this stuff but Microsoft was very successful. There was a lot of jealousy. It was crazy, Apple was very weak, so I called Bill and tried to patch things up. Bill talking about developing Mac apps. Steve: Microsoft is one of our best developer partners. Kara: Are you competitors? I have to admit, I really like PC guy. Steve: The art of those commercials isn't to be mean, it's for those guys to like each other. PC guy is great. PC guy is what makes it work! Big laughs. Walt: How often is MS on your radar in a business sense? Bill: Look at Zune... they love that Apple created this market, and they're going to contribute... something... to that.... Steve is SO known for his restraint. Huge laughs.

It's almost heartwarming... Walt is mentioning that Apple is known for its vertical integration methods. Steve recites the Alan Kay quote about those wanting to do great software needing to make hardware. Bill: I can resist that. Ha! Laughs.
Walt to Steve: is there something you would have done differently to get a larger Mac market share? Steve's diverted to talk about the CE space, hardware v. software. Bill mentions PCs to Macs aren't too different than iPods to Zunes. Steve: I cleared the cobwebs. It's not about today or yesterday, let's go invent tomorrow. Steve on competition: I think it's really healthy, there are some really exciting companies out there right now. Bill agrees. Man, these two are peas in an iPod, we says.
Walt: You're the guys that represent the rich client, the PC. In five years will the PC still be the linchpin when apps move into the cloud? Bill: The mainstream is always under attack. You're always going to have rich local functionality. It's about using that together with rich functionality in the cloud, and that's a hell of a good way to put it. Steve: Concrete example. I love Gmaps. We thought, wouldn't it be great to have one on the iPhone? ... So Apple develops the app and Steve says "BLOWS AWAY" every other Gmaps app ever. There's still a lot you can do with a rich client -- and rich clients run on lower and lower cost/power devices.

They're chatting up the Palm Foolio, er, Folio now... but what's the device in 5 years? Bill: You won't have one. I believe in the tablet form factor... Steve: The personal computer has been very resilient. The internet changed all that. The notion of the PC as the digital hub started to take off. There's something starting again... there's an explosion in post-PC devices (like the iPod). Devices focused on functions -- that's the category where the innovation is. [Well no joke, and that's why Engadget's here, yeah?] Walt wants them to estimate the core functions of the cellphone-like user device in five years. Gates believes ultimately you won't ever want to edit things on your small device... talking about flexible and rollable displays. Steve: the art of devices is the editing function, what's on it and what's not on it. But it will primarily be a communications device.

Kara asks Steve and Bill what they're looking at for next gen communications and collaboration tools, like Wikis etc. Steve and Bill stare blankly for a number of awkward moments... Steve: There used to be saying at Apple, "Isn't it funny? A ship that leaks from the top." That's what they used to say about me in my 20s. Walt: .Mac... you guys didn't really develop it. Steve: I couldn't agree more, and we'll make up for lost time in the near future.

Walt: Do you worry about not being as nimble as some of these companies? Bill is talking about the ecosystem and using cool new stuff to drive demand for both their businesses. Steve thinks Apple takes a different approach. We don't know how to do maps, search, some of this new stuff... so we partner with those companies that do. It's really hard for one company to do everything. They're talking about becoming enablers of digital content. Steve: The industry is still trying to make the transition while they're under attack from piracy... learned some things to do, some things not to do. There's a tremendous amount of experimentation and thought going on that's gonna be good... really good.

Walt: is there a new paradigm coming for the PC? Bill is digging on the idea of 3D computing and natural input, and how it is going to change the way we interact with technology. They're still discussing interfaces. Bill: touch, ink, speech, vision -- you're underestimating the degree of evolution. Ha! Kara and Walt are totally making fun of Steve. "Yeah, we know your'e working on something... it's going to be beautiful and BLOW US AWAY." Hilarious. Steve looks perplexed but you can totally tell he wants to dish.
Steve: There's a real revolution in these post-PC devices. But it really has to be tempered. In some cases you have to augment what exists, but in some cases you have to replace things. But the radical rethinking comes with post-PC devices. Kara: what's the greatest misunderstanding about your relationship with each other? Steve: We've kept our marriage secret for over a decade. Nice Steve, Nice. Bill: Neither of us have anything to complain about. People come and go in this industry, it's nice when someone sticks around! [People, we're telling you, these guys really respect each other. There's no doubt about it. There's a certain, sombre reverence, and profound respect. It just comes through.]

Steve: When Bill and I started we were the youngest guys in the room. Now I'm the oldest guy in the room. That's why I love being here. Steve quotes the Beatles. "You and I have memories longer than the road ahead." Everyone awwwws... and now there's a standing ovation.

Q: What will you two find ground on in terms of policy in the 2008 elections? Steve: We've got some pretty big problems. Most are bigger than anything Silicon Valley can contribute. Steve's talking about alternative energy and our dependency on foreign oil. Kara: are you investing in energy? Bill: Some. Kara: So that could be a lot. [Laughs]

Q about standards and convergence devices. Steve: Bill and I can agree we can get it down to two! Bill: The marketplace is great at allowing diversity when it should, and allowing it to go away when it should. Steve: And allowing it back sometimes! Harrrrr. Laughs.

Q about their legacies. Applause for Bills charity work, huge huge applause. Does Steve envy Bill's second act? Steve: Bill's goal isn't to be the richest guy in the cemetary. ... I look at us as two of the luckiest guys on the planet... we've found what we loved to do at the right place at the right time. Your family and that, what more can you ask for?

Q asking about a single piece of advice for a new entrepreneur. Bill is talking about economies of scale, and wanting to do great things, no worry about growth and money so much. Love of the game! Steve: It's really hard. If you don't love it you're gonna give up. It's a lot of hard work, it's a lot of worrying. Love it, have passion. You've got to be a really good talent scout. Build and organization that can build itself.

Q about what they've learned and what they could have learned from the other guy. Bill: I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste. Laughter. Intuitive taste and products. The way he does things is just different. Just... wow. Steve: We weren't so good with partnering with people. Bill and Microsoft were really good at it. ... Steve: We're up to a million personal training sessions a year, a lot of them are seniors.

Last question! About... the metaverse? Oook. Asking about the next 5-10 years. Bill: I don't think Steve's going to announce his transporter. Laughter. Steve: I don't know, and that's what makes it exciting to go into work every day.

They're wrapping up... shall we recap? Steve, calculating, articulate, very guarded, playing his hand very close to the chest. Bill, very friendly, very open, surprisingly accessible. Both so clearly in love with what they do. These two guys are one in a million, and it's totally clear they've never respected anyone else quite like they respect each other.

The Beatles play them off, another standing ovation. We're out folks, g'night!

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