During the first thirty years of the Personal Computer Age, you had a pair of very energetic college dropouts both born in 1955 leading the pack: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. In an oft-mythologized part of tech history, their paths once converged in a fairly straightforward fashion when Bill Gates offered a financial olive branch to a near-bankrupt Apple Computers in the form of his $ 150 million investment. dollars (200 million Australian dollars).
Similar to Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr in the field of 20th century physics, the two had a fairly well-documented professional rivalry that stemmed from the fact that there was no one else operating at the same level. In Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson compared it to a “binary system” in terms of astronomy – when the orbits of two stars are linked due to their gravitational interaction.
They were known to blatantly mock and berate each other and even had a series of legal feuds going on to go with it. For this reason, the announcement of the agreement on August 6, 1997 sent shock waves through the business world. In its wake, the New York Times The opinion section wrote that âeven in cyberspace, the moment can only be described as surrealâ.
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In typical Jobs fashion, the surprise announcement itself was pure drama. At Macworld in Boston, a satellite video feed from then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates played in the auditorium above Jobs. It was greeted with boos from the Apple loyalists in attendance, which Jobs had to console.
âWe have to drop some notions here. We have to get rid of the idea that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. ‘ “
With 24 years of hindsight, it is clear that the reverse was also true; both companies needed this deal to happen exactly when it did. As far as Apple was concerned, they were a far cry from the 21st century power we would know them under. Long before they revolutionized the music and communications industries, Microsoft eclipsed them in terms of their respective share of the desktop market, and Apple’s time was passing quickly.
For Microsoft, the company was in the midst of an antitrust fight that tarnished the image of its muscular IE promotion at the height of the browser wars with Netscape. It made them look like a noble contender for a change, helping the little guy with an investment that was barely noticeable to them financially.
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After receiving their much-needed cash injections and assurances that Microsoft would support Office for Mac for five years, Apple gave Gates non-voting shares in return. Apple also agreed to drop a long-standing lawsuit in which they alleged that Microsoft had copied the look of Mac OS for Windows and made Internet Explorer the default browser on its computers.
Bill Gates Apple’s investment also allowed Jobs to return to the Phoenix way in the business. After 18 months of losses for the company, the force of this agreement on the backs of Steve Jobs has lifted it from a simple adviser to Apple to their new “interim CEO”. After being fired in 1985, Jobs came back on top with a plan to undo everything his predecessor John Sculley had done.
Things are now very different for the two companies. Apple’s current market capitalization is US $ 2.394 billion, Microsoft’s is US $ 2.286 billion. The rivalry between companies and their figureheads continued long after the pen was put on paper, continuing to shape the IT industry at the same pace.
Gates Trust has since sold his shares in Apple, which ultimately exceeded AU $ 2 billion. Upon Jobs’ death in 2011, Gates honored the Apple icon as a competitor and friend.
âSteve and I first met almost 30 years ago and have been colleagues, competitors and friends for more than half of our lives. ” Gates wrote.
âThe world rarely sees someone who had the profound impact of Steve, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us fortunate enough to work with him, it has been a Huge honor and I will miss Steve dearly.
You can watch the two tech icons remember the deal 10 years later below: