Near the end of Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Steve Jobs, the author steps aside to let his subject opine about a variety of topics, including Microsoft and Bill Gates.
“It’s easy to throw stones at Microsoft,” Jobs said. “They’re clearly fallen from their dominance. They’ve become mostly irrelevant. And yet I appreciate what they did and how hard it was. They were very good at the business side of things. They were never as ambitious product-wise as they should have been.”
He goes on to characterize former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates as “a business person” but not someone who necessarily made great products: “He ended up the wealthiest guy around, and if that was his goal, then he achieved it. But it’s never been my goal, and I wonder, in the end, if it was his goal.”
He also reserves some choice words for current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off,” he said. “It happened at Apple when Sculley came in, which was my fault, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft.” As a consequence, “I don’t think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it.”
Jobs gave Isaacson unprecedented access to his life, granting him dozens of interviews-the last of which took place during the Apple CEO’s last summer. The biography details Jobs’ long-term battle with cancer and attempts to revive Apple in the late 1990s. The book currently tops Amazon’s bestseller list, and is widely expected to move quickly off store shelves.
Apple announced Jobs’ death Oct. 5. A decade of technology hits-including the iPad, iPod and iPhone-had transformed the struggling company into one of the most respected and valued enterprises in the world, and elevated Jobs to superstar status. Apple stores closed Oct. 19 so employees could watch a memorial service held on Apple’s campus.
In the biography, Jobs also vents his fury at other Apple competitors, notably Google. He pledged to launch “thermonuclear war” against Google Android, which he termed “a stolen product.” In a meeting with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Jobs supposedly refused to accept any sort of Android-related payout: “I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”
In keeping with Jobs’ words, Apple has also fired off lawsuits against Android device manufacturers. Its worldwide courtroom battle against Samsung extends from Europe to Japan and Australia, with both companies accusing each other of intellectual property violations. Apple’s other lawsuit targets include HTC and Motorola, and it recently settled a dispute with Nokia.