If you need further evidence that there’s a kinder gentler Microsoft these days, these photos are your proof.
That’s Oracle cofounder and CTO Larry Ellison hanging out with Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, with tennis great John McEnroe between them.
Fifteen years ago, when their two companies were hated rivals, no one would ever have predicted such a thing.
They were watching Serena Williams play Monica Niculescu, of Romania, in a qualifying match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California on Tuesday. (Williams won.)
And see that guy at the top left of the picture, looking down? That’s Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, a former professional tennis player himself. That’s another name you wouldn’t expect to be hanging out with Gates.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, and even until a few years ago, Gates and Ellison were bitter rivals.
When Microsoft, under Bill Gates’ leadership, was being investigated for antitrust violations by the federal government in 2000, Ellison tried to help the feds, hiring private investigators to out some groups that were voicing support for Microsoft. He suspected the groups of being funded by Microsoft. (Ellison was also one of Steve Jobs’ best friends, and Jobs and Gates had no love lost throughout much of the time they knew each other, although they eventually became friendlier.)
That lawsuit, which Microsoft eventually lost, was one of the low points of Gates’ career, and many say that it was a key reason he stepped down as CEO and became the company’s chief software architect.
After that, Gates started pouring more energies into his philanthropic efforts, and in 2008 left Microsoft to run his foundation full time. But last year, when Satya Nadella took over as CEO, Gates stepped back into a formal advisory role at Microsoft.
The two companies have been slowly burying the hatchet. In 2013, they announced a surprise new partnership.
Ellison also signed The Giving Pledge, a vow to give most of his wealth to charity, an idea hatched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Ellison signed the pledge because Buffett asked him to, he said.
This is all part of a new Microsoft, as the company slowly makes friends out of most of its former enemies.
And now, Gates and Ellison are hanging out together in public.