Steve Jobs Helps Out An Old Friend In Need (AAPL, MSFT)

Flashback to 1997. Steve Jobs has recently returned to Apple (AAPL), which is reeling. Desperate for a lifeline, he brokers a deal with Microsoft: Bill Gates gives him $150 million in Microsoft (MSFT) cash, via a stock sale. In return, Steve has to undergo an embarassing Macworld presentation in which Bill Gates beams in via satellite, his image looming over his rival.

Cut to today: Steve announces that the red-hot iPhone will make its long-awaited push in corporate markets… via a licensing deal with MSFT’s Exchange. This isn’t quite symmetrical, because the deal won’t move Microsoft’s needle financially. But it’s a big psychic boost: The maker of the world’s coolest phone had multiple options in front of it — and it went with its dowdy old friend. And because he’s a gracious guy, he doesn’t even require Bill, or anyone else from Microsoft, to share the stage when he graced them with his gift.

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