The Best of Frenemies

By Kahney, Leander | Newsweek, October 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Best of Frenemies


Kahney, Leander, Newsweek


Byline: Leander Kahney

The relationship between Gates and Jobs was always complicated, sometimes nasty, and, in the end, surprisingly tender.

In 1997, Steve Jobs took the stage at Macworld in Boston. It was one of his first public appearances after returning to the ailing company he'd left more than a decade earlier. Halfway through his presentation, he dropped a bombshell: Apple was teaming up with Microsoft. The audience of Apple fans jeered and booed. Microsoft was Apple's archenemy; Bill Gates was evil incarnate. There wasn't a worse partner for Apple. Gates appeared at the event via satellite, his face looming high over Jobs like Big Brother in Apple's iconic 1984 TV ad.

It seemed an unlikely match, but in fact Jobs and Gates went way back. They met in the early '80s, when Gates was one of the first software developers for the Macintosh. As Gates noted while paying tribute to Jobs after his death, they would go on to spend half their professional lives in each other's orbit. They even went on double dates together.

Gates was an early evangelist of the Mac and enthusiastically boosted the platform. Jobs was so pleased, he lent Gates a prototype machine to work on. Gates called it SAND (Steve's Amazing New Device). Soon, though, both companies were suing each other over copyright issues. The lawsuits led to nearly a decade of acrimony, insults, and taunts.

"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste," Jobs once said. "I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way."

Jobs noted that Gates would "be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger. …

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