Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates displayed a bit of emotion when talking to CBS’s 60 Minutes about Steve Jobs.
That interview didn’t focus entirely on the relationship between the two men, with most of its running time devoted instead to Gates’s charitable efforts. But when the conversation shifted to their last meeting before Jobs’s death from cancer in 2011, Gates—normally so cerebral—seemed a bit sad.
“When he was sick I got to go down and spend time with him,” Gates said, describing their meeting as “forward looking.” Jobs spent a portion of their time together showing off designs for his yacht, which he would never see completed—something that Gates defended when the interviewer seemed a little bit incredulous. “Thinking about your potential mortality isn’t very constructive,” he said.
Gates also praised Steve Jobs’s marketing and design skills: “He understood, he had an intuitive sense for marketing that was amazing.”
And in contrast to his subtle—and not so subtle—digs at the iPad over the years, Gates conceded that Apple had “put the pieces together in a way that succeeded” with regard to tablets.
Gates’s magnanimity toward his former rival and Apple is a reflection, perhaps, of his current position in life: it’s been nearly five years since his last full-time day at Microsoft, and all of his efforts seem focused on his philanthropic endeavors. He simply has no reason to rip a rival limb from limb in the same way he did as Microsoft CEO.
People also forget that the relationship between Apple and Microsoft wasn’t a straight-up rivalry. While Jobs argued strenuously for years that Microsoft had ripped off Apple’s intellectual property, it was Gates who eventually helped bail out Apple when it was floundering in the mid-1990s, via a multimillion-dollar investment in Mac software development. (To be fair, the investment was more symbolic than anything else, but it did give Apple a metaphorical shot in the arm at a crucial moment.)
But that was then. Nowadays, Gates continues to pour his fortune into wiping out diseases such as malaria. “I’m excited about that,” he said, “and it’s doable.” A big part of his current disease-eradication efforts center on the development of a special thermos capable of reliably transporting vaccines over long distances.
A number of Websites have posted up the full 60 Minutes interview, including Computerworld.