Bill Gates was on PBS’s Charlie Rose show tonight and he got peppered with questions concerning the iPad’s gigantic success and why Microsoft’s original tablet vision fell short. Now chairman of Microsoft and a philanthropist, Gates gave honest answers and didn’t seem jealous of Apple’s success with the iPad as his sidekick Steve Ballmer evidently had been when he laughed off the iPhone back in 2007. Here are your key takeaways…

Gates envisioned tablet computing “way too early”, Gates confessed. Notwithstanding, Redmond managed to persuade Lenovo to create a tablet computer running a modified Windows version back in 2000.

It flopped.

Microsoft obviously didn’t get the memo that timing is everything.

When the world eventually caught up, Apple came with the right product at the right time, much to Microsoft’s surprise. Gates lavishes praise on Jobs and his iPad vision:

He did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren’t as thin, they weren’t as attractive as what came along.

The iPad exploded and took over the tablet market in no time. It’s now projected to supplant the notebook by 2016 as the primary mobile computer.


Gates and Jobs in a rare joint appearance at D7 in 2007, ahead of the iPhone’s U.S. debut.

What else?

According to the interview, Gates also learned that almost good enough is never enough:

What you see is something that is almost good enough that is forgotten for all time. Then the thing that just crossed that threshold — even though it came later — goes up and is gigantic.

And once you have critical mass, that’s when the power of the ecosystem creates virtually an impenetrable barrier, he observed.

What you see is this phenomena where when you get a device to critical mass, you get applications written to take advantage of that, then you get advantage in the hardware so you can bring the cost down.

But Gates is still Microsoft’s chairman so I wasn’t terribly surprised when he argued “Microsoft has something that may change the rules again” in a nod at his company’s freshly announced Surface tablet.

He also asked PC vendors not to be mad at Surface and the fact that Microsoft is now a tablet maker:

I actually believe you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a rich eco-system of manufacturers and you can have a few signature devices that show off, wow, what’s the difference between a tablet and a PC?

He actually kinda confirms Asus chairman’s assertion that the Surface is just a show-off temporary product to help drive Windows 8 adoption.

So, is it a PC or a tablet then?

You can have everything you like about a tablet and anything you like about a PC all in one device. This is a seminal event of taking the best of two worlds and bringing them together, I can’t wait until it’s shipping and everybody can sit and play with it because that’s the only way you can understand what we’re trying to say with it.

I guess he didn’t get the memo on the baggage of the PC.

The full interview runs 53 minutes long and is available (via Business Insider and BGR).

I’m sure as hell glad that Gates is no longer a douchebag who won’t give credit where credit is due. For the record, Gates only changed his stance on competition after he had stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO.

Did Gates’ nice words for Apple and the iPad come as a shock to you?

  • That comic was too offensive Jeff -.-

    • Marty Cunnane

      This article wasn’t written by Jeff

    • The comic is also wrong. It was reported that the 4S wasn’t the “iPhone 5” because Jobs was working on the phone after the 4S and had little to do with the 4S. It was reported he had a heavy hand in influencing what the new one looks like.

  • Calling who a douchebag, Christian? It’s no shock to anyone whether they complement or talk shiet about each other. Microsoft and Apple are competitors. I bet you use, or used pc before and learned a lot of shiet out of it. I don’t care if you’re a pc or a mac person… Appreciate for what they did and deal with it.
    I honestly admire both Bill Gates and R.I.P. Steve Jobs.. If they weren’t competitors, we won’t have what we have today!

  • MadAndronicus

    “I’m sure as hell glad that Gates is no longer a douchebag who won’t give credit where credit is due.”

    What the hell are you talking about?

    The late Steve Jobs was a major douche and never gave “credit where credit is due” Bill Gates is a saint compared to him…oh wait this is a Christian Z article, ok nevermind it all makes sense now.

    • You’re right, he was a douchebag, too

      • MadAndronicus

        Sad part is, he never changed.

      • The funny thing is he came up with great products that are not just good enough.

        An inspiration to a new generation of entrepreneurs to come out with great products that are easy to use.

      • Kiel Wallace

        You’re making quite a mark yourself.

  • I have tons of respect for what Gates and Jobs accomplished and own a Mac, a PC, iOS gear and a Galaxy Nexus.

    I also have zero tolerance for ppl not giving credit where credit is due out of petulant jealousy.

    You may wanna check out my post on Apple’s warranty scandal in Italy to realize I also have zero tolerance for companies that take advantage of consumers, Apple included.

  • Well, as I seem to remember, Jobs went to Gates for a $300 Million loan just after taking back control of Apple, when they were almost in total financial ruin.

    I believe Steve used that $300 Million to launch that silly iPod project – Obviously Gates didn’t have anything to worry about with a little, simple music player, so he loaned the cash to Apple.

    Now, I’m sure that “loan” was secured by Apple Stock Shares – so, does Bill Gates hold “bad” feelings for Apple’s success???? LOL!!! Hardly!!!

    • debunker

      Wow 3 false suppositions in one post. It was not a loan, it was a patent settlement! The iPod project came years later. MS has no Apple stock.

      But it must be nice to live in a make-believe world!

      • Okay “Debunker” – you ARE WRONG – talk about having to get your “FACTS” straight first, especially when you call yourself a “debunker”!

        I said “as I seem to remember” – I also never said Microsoft, I said “went to Gates” – I was NOT supposing “facts” as you so crassly are in your post. Geeze dude – breath & and spend a minute to do your own fact checking before you claim to be the “debunker” – what a joke YOU are!!!

        A quick Google “Archive” search turned up the following quote from an article dated: Thursday, August 04, 2011 8:46:49 AM (IST) on a website called: jaijiworld – Quote:
        “Apple is the most cash-rich company on the US landscape. But it wasn’t
        always that way. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak borrowed money from an
        Intel executive to start Apple. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the
        company was losing money. It was psychologically on the ropes. Jobs
        borrowed $150 million from Bill Gates at Microsoft Corp. and overhauled
        the company, spending on ideas that worked, killing projects that
        didn’t. You know the rest of the story,” says the report.

      • debunker

        Is that the depth of your research skills? And you’re proud of that? Sad.

      • debunker

        This is what sucks about arguing with illiterate people. Now I’ve got to do the research you ought to be able to do yourself! Anyway here you go. Wikipedia >
        Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation > Impact:

        Quote:

        In 1997, three years after the lawsuit was decided, all lingering infringement questions against Microsoft regarding the Lisa and Macintosh GUI as well as Apple’s “QuickTime piracy” lawsuit against Microsoft were settled in direct negotiations. Apple agreed to make Internet Explorer their default browser, to the detriment of Netscape. Microsoft agreed to continue developing Microsoft Office and other software for the Mac over the next five years. Microsoft also purchased $150 million of nonvoting Apple stock, helping Apple in its financial struggles at the time. Both parties entered into a patent cross-licensing agreement.

      • This would ONLY be relevant had I mentioned it in the first place!

        Obviously you have your one-tracked mind set on this lawsuit – which is NOT what I was referring to!

        I also don’t need to refer to you as “illiterate” – since you seem to have already proved that to everyone already.

        But, the REAL question is dude, “why are you so angry?”

        Why do you dwell on such insignificant things as an opinion post in a blog?

      • debunker

        I’m not angry – I’m not the one that’s been caught out regurgitating bogus stories!! Like your $150 million “loan” that was actually a patent settlement (note too in this settlement who had to pay who!!!)

      • @debunker
        “MS has no Apple stock.”

        “Microsoft also purchased $150 million of nonvoting Apple stock”

        Good job contradicting
        yourself there. One tends to lose their credibility when they disprove their previous claims.

      • debunker

        “has” vs “purchased”. You know know, like grammatical tenses?!?!

        Ok that’s probably too advanced. I’ll spell it out.

        The settlement was 15 years ago. They don’t have Apple stock right now.

  • Gates was a douche?? Really Christian ?… You might want to re-consider! if it wasn’t for Gates (who gave $300 Million, Jobs (RIP) would literally have achieved nothing after he re-joined Apple!!

    Jobs(RIP) on the other hand was a mean douche who didn’t even spared Wozniak! he never gave credit to anyone but himself !!! Poor post, poor analysis!

    • Er, $150m,

      no point adding on rate of inflation to inflate the figure.

    • melci

      Apple had $4 billion in the bank when MS bought $150 million in non-voting Apple shares. It was more symbolic than anything.

  • debunker

    So you commenters and the author think that the success of the iPad and the MS failures in the area were simply matters of timing of the table form factor!!

    You still don’t get why the iPad was a success. No wonder you’re left arguing about who was the great douchebag!!

  • jg

    Fire this author

  • sjah07

    So do we really need a snide comment after each quote? What awful writing.