How Steve Jobs And Bill Gates Went From Friends To Bitter Enemies

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates knew each other for a very long time. They were like-minded technology buffs that met during the late 1970s and kept crossing paths for decades. Steve Jobs, known for his eccentricity, and Bill Gates, one of the richest men and most successful entrepreneurs in the world, started off relatively friendly. However, as their interests and products came into direct competition, they turned into rivals. The Steve Jobs and Bill Gates relationship drove electronics and technology to new heights during the late 20th and early 21st century. 

  • Jobs And Gates Founded Their Companies One Year Apart
    Photo: 60 Minutes / CBS News

    Jobs And Gates Founded Their Companies One Year Apart

    Steve Jobs, raised by his adoptive parents (Paul and Clara) in California, showed an interest in electronics from a young age, tinkering with machines in the family's garage. He met Steve Wozniak while attending Homestead High School and the two became fast friends. Jobs attended Reed College in Oregon in 1972 but didn't stay long, moving to San Francisco after only six months at school. He took a job with Atari in 1974 and founded Apple with Wozniak in April 1976.

    Bill Gates was born in Seattle in 1955 and developed his interest in technology at Lakeside School. He enrolled at Harvard in 1973 but only studied there for two years. Gates was much more interested in coding and starting his own company than in academics. He developed a computer operating system and founded Microsoft in April 1975 with Paul Allen, a fellow Lakeside School alum.


  • The Two Met In The Late 1970s And Started To Work Together

    As Jobs and Wozniak developed their Apple computers, they were interested in using Gates' computer software. They met in the late 1970s and by the early 1980s, Jobs had reached out to Gates about creating programming language for Apple's personal computers. For his part, Gates had signed a deal with IBM, the dominant computer producer of the day.

    Jobs went to Seattle, where Gates was based, and they reached an agreement for Microsoft to develop software for Apple. Gates would put together a spreadsheet program (Excel), a word processing program (Word), and BASIC, an easy-to-use programming language. 

  • Gates Wasn't Impressed With Apple Or Jobs

    With a deal in place, Gates went to Cupertino, California, where Apple was based, to demonstrate his software for Jobs and others. Gates didn't think that the Apple computer's capabilities - especially the graphics, which Jobs had played up to him - were all that inspired and he didn't like the way Steve Jobs treated him. Gates recalled that “It was kind of a weird seduction visit where Steve was saying we don’t really need you and we’re doing this great thing, and it’s under the cover. He’s in his Steve Jobs sales mode, but kind of the sales mode that also says, ‘I don’t need you, but I might let you be involved.’”

  • Gates's Relationship With IBM Made Jobs Think He Was Ripping Off Apple
    Photo: 60 Minutes Overtime / CBS News

    Gates's Relationship With IBM Made Jobs Think He Was Ripping Off Apple

    While Apple was getting its Macintosh ready for the masses, Gates and Microsoft continued to work with IBM. This worried Jobs, who feared that Microsoft would steal the graphics interface from his Macintosh technology and use it for its own ends. He had a right to be worried and when he found out about Microsoft Windows in 1983, he unloaded on Gates. Gates was developing software for IBM that used graphics, much like Jobs envisioned and was working toward, which infuriated Jobs. Jobs called Gates to California and, in what Gates called a "command performance," shouted at him “You’re ripping us off!” he shouted. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!”

  • Jobs Let The IBM Debacle Go So They Could Work Together On The Macintosh
    Video: YouTube

    Jobs Let The IBM Debacle Go So They Could Work Together On The Macintosh

    On the heels of Apple's successful Apple I, Apple II, and Apple IIe computers, they introduced the Apple Macintosh computer in 1984

    In addition to the famous Super Bowl ad for the product, Bill Gates appeared in promotional videos, too. It seemed like the two computing geniuses had made amends and were ready to tackle the tech world together.



  • Gates And Jobs Were Actually Ripping Off Xerox

    Gates wasn't shaken by Jobs's outbursts. In contrast, he told Jobs that they both knew the idea for a graphic interface was the brainchild of Xerox and that Apple had no proprietary claims to the idea. Gates said to Jobs “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

    The truth to this claim has been the topic of speculation for years. Xerox had a computer called the Alto at the PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) in 1979. Apple engineer toured the facility and saw a demonstration of the company's products, but Jobs only admitted that he had been inspired by the technology.