Bill Gates: Steve Jobs was a wizard, but I was immune to his spells

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Steve Jobs Macworld autograph
Steve Jobs (possibly) writing an incantation.
Photo: RR Auction

There are plenty of words used to describe Steve Jobs, but “wizard” isn’t one of the ones we hear too often.

That’s exactly what Jobs was, however, according to Microsoft co-founder and long-time Jobs frenemy Bill Gates. Speaking on CNN, Gates said that Jobs accomplished his Apple-correcting wizardry by “casting spells.” But Gates, as a “minor wizard,” was immune to Jobs’ hocus pocus.

“I was like a minor wizard because he would be casting spells, and I would see people mesmerized, but because I’m a minor wizard, the spells don’t work on me,” Gates said in an interview on leadership.

Gates said that Jobs was brilliant at motivating people — and picking the right people to work with to begin with. “I have yet to meet any person who [could match jobs] in terms of picking talent, hyper-motivating that talent, and having a sense of design of, ‘Oh, this is good. This is not good,’” Gates said.

Even when Jobs had an arguable misstep, as with the original NeXT computer, Jobs “mesmerized those people” working for him.

Gates’ comments may sound like he’s putting Jobs down, but he makes clear that he’s not. Well, not entirely. Although he notes that Jobs could be an “asshole” at times, he also “brought some incredibly positive things along with that toughness.”

The history of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Despite their differences in approach, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates enjoyed a close (albeit sometimes contentious) relationship for years. Microsoft and Apple started in the late 1970s within months of one another. Gates then made his name as a developer for the Mac. He even tried to convince Apple’s higher-ups to distribute the Mac OS on third-party computers: basically the Windows model before Windows was a thing.

By the 1990s, Gates had overtaken Jobs in career trajectory. It wasn’t until Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s that things started to turn in Jobs’ direction again. Gates recently called Microsoft’s failure to compete in the mobile space his “greatest mistake ever.”

Source: Bloomberg