Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – a rare interview loaded with meanings and lessons

In a rare interview with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (2007), we glimpse into the minds of two titans who have shaped the technological landscape that we see today. Here I provide some insights into their thinking and what it means to us as business owners and leaders.

In the video of 2007 D5 Conference shot in Carlsblad, California, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are interviewed in front of a live audience. We can learn a lot from these two visionary leaders in the interview here.

“Great People”

Throughout the interview Steve Jobs mentions several times the importance of having great people within your team and organization. It’s only through them that the vision of the company could be materialized. Bill Gates also said something important related to this towards the end. He said that early in his career, he was challenged with bringing great people together and working effectively and still finds this most challenging today. He admitted that his focus wasn’t on this important thing in the early part of his career and regrets not doing it early enough.

“Poor Products”

Despite their comradery, Steve Jobs was vocal and fairly critical of Microsoft’s approach to product development. At one time he says that Microsoft ‘has no taste, and don’t think of original ideas and don’t bring culture into their products’, you can see this in the short video here. Presumably what Steve was trying to say is that their ideas were based on grounded facts such as typesetting for Windows which he went on to explain was taken from the Macintosh.

I have my own reasons as to why the two titans of the industry had differing approaches to their businesses. Microsoft already had a big chunk of the PC market and Apple had it’s own set of loyal followers. The size and scale of Microsoft meant that Gates needed to stay in a course that required ‘all noses to the grindstone’ whereas Jobs was far more visionary with his ideas and approach. It’s understandable that Jobs should think this way, it also gave him every opportunity to prove himself right and that he did very well with Apple.

In my opinion, Apple was very fortunate and the stars were aligned for Jobs with his visionary thinking and the technological marvels that the world was going through in the last 15 years. Basically Jobs knew that the timing as good as to bring his ideas and thoughts into fruition. He did this with great success and the list of products include iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad in that order.

What we can learn from this is that markets are different for various businesses and products, such as Microsoft who was seeing a phenomenal growth in its operating system and coined the term ‘a computer in every home’. Microsoft saw that it needed to keep up with this huge demand and rather than focusing on new products, economized on it’s position in the market. Maybe Jobs in his second coming realized this and got to work as a result.

As a sign of good leadership, Jobs also mentioned that one of the qualities that he overlooked early on in his life was partnership with other companies. He explains that Microsoft were very good in partnership and it was in their DNA.

“Visions of the Future”

It was interesting to see how many of their visions of the future statement had come true since the video was made in 2007 and 8 years has elapsed. From what I could tell, their comments of video usage, browser richness were pretty much spot on but maybe anyone could have guessed that during that time. However what was more important to me were their comments which were not related to technical vision and fulfillment but more touching on the human qualities. They constantly speak of having great people in the team, working hard together, gut-feelings in hiring, a passion for the same thing – desire to make a difference and enjoying yourself. Come every day to work with a sense of wonderment and what you will accomplish.

The last points are important to me and often overlooked bye many leaders and bosses. I cannot emphasize the point that if you don’t have a good employee that is not enjoying his or her work, you are likely getting 10-50% of their productivity. If you have a motivated person who is taking a big interest in the work and wants to do more he/she is likely to be very productive. Hence as a leader it is up to you to make the environment conducive to a healthy and positive environment. This is a big point that Gates mentioned in his interview and has some regrets for not doing it early in his career.

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