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The Shocking Way Bill Gates Saved Apple In Record Time

It’s the 6th of August, 1997. Steve Jobs is getting ready for a Conference of the Macworld show in Boston. Suddenly, the phone rang. It’s Bill Gates. They talked for an hour. When Apple’s event started, Microsoft showed who the boss was. Only because of one picture.


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Ioannis Dedes

3 years ago | 3 min read

It’s the 6th of August, 1997.

Steve Jobs is getting ready for a Conference of the Macworld show in Boston.

Suddenly, the phone rang. It’s Bill Gates. They talked for an hour.

When Apple’s event started, Microsoft showed who the boss was.

Only because of one picture.

Context of the Conflict

At this period, Jobs and Gates were trying to get along and solve the issues that had arisen.

In a nutshell, there were accusations that Microsoft had stolen graphic content from Apple’s design schemes. After this issue, Apple let the former use designs for Microsoft 1.0, and Microsoft would produce Excel exclusively for Mac during the next two years.

At the same time, Microsoft was creating Microsoft 2.0, and the graphic designs didn’t change, leading John Sculley of Apple to proceed with further legal accusations.

Bill Gates was also facing trouble with the financial legislation and the anti-monopolistic policies that Microsoft’s dominance couldn’t help but violate.

Microsoft has had two goals in the last 10 years. One was to copy the Mac, and the other was to copy Lotus’ success in the spreadsheet — basically, the applications business. And over the course of the last 10 years, Microsoft accomplished both of those goals. And now they are completely lost.
— Steve Jobs

The tensions between the two sides were higher than ever. Jobs was winning valuable time with Microsoft’s legal issues and took this as an opportunity to get more competitive. Gates was furious and rejected Microsoft’sproduction of Mac Word and Excel for the next years.

There was a further miscommunication between the two when Apple bought NeXT, and Gates couldn’t understand what this meant in terms of the software and Apple’s future.

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste”

The Deal

In reality, Apple didn’t stand a chance at this point. And Jobs knew it.

Don’t get me wrong, however. Gates loved Mac and Apple. His urge to end the conflict didn’t only stem from the legal trouble but also his genuine interest in Jobs’ company.

Jobs kept repeating that he was looking for two things: an agreement with Microsoft that the latter would keep producing software for Mac and a multi-million financial investment.

After months of communications, the two companies reached an agreement. The end-product was presented in the one-hour phone call before the conference.

Microsoft Domination

Bill Gates over Steve Jobs at the Boston Macworld Expo August 6, 1997
Bill Gates over Steve Jobs at the Boston Macworld Expo August 6, 1997

This is a picture during the conference in Boston. Jobs had announced the deal with Microsoft, announced the paper’s points and the benefits for Apple and Microsoft.

So everyone would win money, new and better products were on their way, and the ‘war’ was over. What is the issue with the picture?

This is a conference of Apple. This is Macworld. This picture makes Apple seem small. It transforms a message of domination.

Domination by Microsoft.

Regardless of the advantage that the multi-millionaires and the Apple-fanatics would gain from this deal, they still booed Bill Gates.

It’s not that they didn’t like him. It’s not that, up until this day, they aren’t using his products. Or that he has revolutionized their lives forever.

It’s that he was the boss. This picture shows everything being in his hands. Or even better, the future of Apple being in his hands. And it was frustrating.

Even Steve Jobs has talked about this presentation as a mistake; the actual plan was to bring Gates to the conference. However, this wasn’t feasible, and it made Apple look like it was moving with Gates’s orders and not Jobs.

It’s not that Apple’s stock didn’t rise by 33% at the end of this day and that Apple’s investors didn’t enjoy the $150 million that Microsoft invested in the former. It’s also not that a direct stakeholder of the contract wasn’t happy with the agreement.

The issue was the context; it was one of the most turbulent periods for the only company in the world that was on the track of surpassing Microsoft. Bill Gates made it boring for the people aspiring to see a war when Jobs suddenly became victorious after a collision with the former.

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Ioannis Dedes

Experienced Freelance Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the online media industry. Skilled in Communication, English, Training, Research, and Human Resources. Strong media and communication professional studying at McGill University, Bachelor of Arts - BA focused in Political Science and Government, History.


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