This One Story Tells You How Much Has Changed For Apple And Microsoft In 15 Years

Bill Gates, Macworld Boston 1997

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Apple and Microsoft are fighting over Office?What is this, 1997?

While startups flash through Silicon Valley’s pan, companies like Apple and Microsoft have endured. And the people there have long memories.

While Steve Jobs is no longer with us and Bill Gates has retired from active duty, there are plenty of veterans who remember the day when a humiliated Apple had to take Microsoft’s money and settle a patent dispute.

That was August 6, 1997, when Gates appeared by satellite link at Macworld Expo in Boston to announce that Microsoft would invest $150 million in a cash-strapped Apple and commit to offering its Office suite for the Mac for the next five years.

The audience booed Gates.

“Apple exists in an ecosystem,” Jobs said in the keynote before introducing Gates. “It needs help from other partners. It needs to help other partners.”

At the time, Apple really needed Microsoft’s help. If Microsoft had even hinted that it might stop making Office for the Mac, Apple’s personal computer line would be dead.

Now the shoe’s on the other foot. Microsoft needs Apple’s permission to put Office on the iPhone and iPad—and Apple has said it wants to treat all developers equally.

“We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose,” Jobs said back in 1997. “If we want Microsoft Office on the Mac, we better treat the company that puts it out with a little bit of gratitude.”

That was then, when the Mac, as it does today, had a tiny market share. This is now, when Apple dominates the tablet market and Microsoft is barely even a player in smartphones.

Here’s the 1997 speech. Gates gets booed by the audience at about 4:45. Jobs talked about the need for gratitude at 8 minutes in.