Bill Gates: I Wish I Had Steve Jobs’s Sense of Design

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was recently interviewed by Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes, and one of the topics of discussion was the late Steve Jobs. Mr. Gates became quite emotional when thinking back to his last meeting with Mr. Jobs, and he said he wished he had Mr. Jobs's sense of design.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates Thinking Back to His Last Meeting with Steve Jobs

When he was sick, I got to go down and spend time with him," Mr. Gates said. They talked about, "what we'd learned, families...about anything. [...] He showed me the boat he was working on, and talked about how he's looking forward to being on it, even though we both knew there was a good chance that wouldn't happen."

Charlie Rose asked Mr. Gates about missed opportunities, and he acknowledged that Microsoft had done, "tablets, lots of tablets, well before Apple did, but [Apple] put the pieces together in a way that succeeded."

60 Minutes put together a mini-video dealing predominantly with the parts of the interview that involved Steve Jobs:

Note that the video requires Flash.


The comment about Steve Jobs and his design sense came when Charlie Rose asked, "What did [Steve Jobs] have that you wished you had?"

Mr. Gates instantly and matter-of-factly replied, "Oh, his sense of design. That everything had to fit a certain aesthetic. The fact that he [Steve Jobs], with as little engineering background as he had, it shows that design can lead you in a good direction, and some phenomenal products came out of that."

Related to that question, Mr. Gates also commented on Steve Jobs's intuitive grasp of branding and marketing, saying that he understood these things in a very good ways.

The conversation also went further back in time to their early days as tech disrupters:

[Steve Jobs] and I, in a sense, grew up together. We were within a year of the same age, and we were kind of naively optimistic and built big companies. And every fantasy we had about creating products and learning new things-- we achieved all of it. And most of it as rivals. But we always retained a certain respect and communication, including even when he was sick.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were collaborators in a sense almost as much as they were rivals and competitors. In the early days of Apple, Microsoft was a partner company making software for the Apple II, and later the Mac.

After Microsoft released Windows, Steve Jobs was bitter about Microsoft ripping off his Macintosh—a bitterness that reverberated through the decades to the patent wars Apple is fighting against Android as a whole and Samsung in particular.

Steve Jobs turned to Microsoft for a loan in the late 1990s when he first came back to Apple, telling a room full of Mac developers that the platform wars were over. Of course, it was only a few years before that when Steve Jobs told Robert X. Cringely for The Triumph of the Nerds that "Microsoft has no taste."

The reality, however, is that this interview, the session that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did together at 2007's D conference (also referenced in the video above), and this interview with 60 Minutes shows that when you cut down to it, the two men were friends.

Much of the interview dealt with Bill Gates and his amazing work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 60 Minutes also provided that full interview, which we recommend. The bit about the vaccine thermos is super cool. That interview in full:

This video also requires Flash.

[Via Philip Elmer-Dewitt]

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I think the word you’re looking for is “frenemy.”


He likes Job’s sense of design so much, he blatantly copied it. raspberry

Lee Dronick

I wonder what would have happened if Bill and Steve had been partners.

Lee Dronick

Note that the video requires Flash.

Too bad that it isn’t Silverlight, that works in iOS smile


Bryan Chaffin

I wonder what would have happened if Bill and Steve had been partners.

I suspect they would soon have become ex-partners. smile

It’s an interesting thought, Lee.

Lee Dronick

Yeah, probably.


Nothing much new in the interview, eh? I believe all this was said in the Isaacson biography and interviews with Gates upon Steve’s passing.

Taste is the skill most lacking in Gates, but boy did he have the fingers to print money and pick pockets. As MS sinks will Bill be able to continue his foundation? I wonder.


It was the most human that Gates has appeared, at least to me. Doesn’t make me like MSFT any more or less but puts Gates in a different light, especially with all the good works he has done lately.

It was also nice to see the stuff related to Jobs and their relationship. Bryan, thanks for putting this little piece together.

Bryan Chaffin

Most welcome, nealg. smile

Lee Dronick

Mike, if I understand the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation correctly, the money is not tied to MicroSoft. I may be wrong about that, it wouldn’t be the first time and it will certainly happen again.

Neal, I think that Melinda has had a postive influence on Bill.

Gary tate

A question I have does Tim Cook have his sense of design.

Lee Dronick

  A question I have does Tim Cook have his sense of design.

Johhny Ive does.



The Foundation is a separate entity from MS. If anything, it is no longer even tied to the fortunes of Bill & Melinda Gates, as the Foundation has been the recipient of generous contributions from the likes of Warren Buffet and a host of the super-rich. The work the Foundation does is remarkable, and in the field of health in low income settings, is a major driving force in research and improving the quality of life. In key sectors, it has largely supplanted traditional funders and donors, like DFID, USAID, SIDA and other bilateral government organisations. What they’re doing for under-privileged populations is remarkable, and nothing short of saintly - words that I write without reservation from my MBP.


I concur, the friendship between SJ and BG is obvious, as is their genuine mutual respect. That doesn’t diminish their fierce rivalry, nor contradict SJ’s comment about taste. Nonetheless, when SJ needed a hand to get Apple off of life support, his friend BG was there to help when he didn’t have to.

Since then, this has consistently tempered my assessment of MS, and is just one of the several reasons why I don’t wish to see them fail. Who knows, Apple may yet return that favour.

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