Back in 1998, Bill Gates was comfortably ruling Microsoft’s empire while Apple was bleeding cash and meekly attempting to stay in business. Now, 12 years later, Bill Gates is retired and Steve Jobs has masterfully transformed Apple into one of the most innovative, successful, and profitable tech companies in the world. While some of the Apple faithful undoubtedly believed that Jobs had the ability to turn around the company he co-founded, no one could have predicted just how extraordinary Apple’s overhaul would be.
Naturally, Bill Gates was one of the many who were skeptical of Apple’s prospects at the time. Tech writer Robert Cringley recently re-discovered a missing audiotape containing a 60-minute interview he conducted with Gates. The topic of discussion? Steve Jobs, mostly.
When asked about Jobs’ return to Apple, Gates quipped, “What I can’t figure out is why he (Steve Jobs) is even trying (to be the CEO of Apple)? He knows he can’t win.”
It’s pretty easy to argue that Jobs did win. Certainly Apple has the mojo lately with its string of home run products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and now the iPad. Even Mac market share is up in the double digits and Apple’s profit margins are the best in the industry. The trend line is definitely up for Apple and mildly down for Microsoft.
What Bill Gates didn’t count on when he declared Jobs a loser back in 1998, was the Californian’s tenacity. It took 12 years to do it, but Apple is well positioned now to take Microsoft’s crown.
Unfortunately, the full contents of the tantalizing tape will never be published in their entirety. You see, one of Gates’ stipulations in agreeing to the interview in the first place was that the content could only be used for a Vanity Fair article Cringley was planning to write on the relationship between Gates and Steve Jobs. Jobs, however, didn’t come through for the story like he had promised, and the article ultimately never materialized.