Malcolm Gladwell on Bill Gates and Steve Jobs
Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are two of the most inspiring entrepreneurs the world has witnessed and both were fiercely competitive within the technology space.
Respected author Malcolm Gladwell has recently gone on record to say Of the great entrepreneurs of this era, people will have forgotten Steve Jobs. ‘Who was Steve Jobs again?’ But … there will be statues of Bill Gates across the Third World,” Gladwell said. “There’s a reasonable shot that — because of his money — we will cure malaria.” Of Gates, whose foundation has given more than $2 billion to causes around the world, Gladwell said: “I firmly believe that 50 years from now he will be remembered for his charitable work. No one will even remember what Microsoft is.”
Now Gladwell is talking about the actual men (Gates and Jobs) rather than the businesses themselves (Microsoft and Apple). The main core of his argument is formed because of the nature of charity and philanthropy work Gates has been doing outside of Microsoft, and I suspect, Gladwell maybe right here mainly because Gates is still alive and Jobs is no longer with us anymore.
Gates, who stepped down from his role as head of Microsoft several years ago to devote himself to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other charitable and advisory work, will be remembered as a giant among entrepreneurs a few decades from now, according to Gladwell.
Jobs, who is currently revered for co-founding Apple and then returning to the company to rescue it from irrelevance before his death with a series of hugely popular products like the iPhone and iPad, will be largely forgotten, the author said.
Here’s Gladwell on Gates and Jobs (see video below, Gladwell’s comments on Gates and Jobs begin at the 9:44 mark): “So Gates, sure, is the most ruthless capitalist. And then he decides, he wakes up one morning and he says, ‘Enough.’ And he steps down, he takes his money, takes it off the table … and I think, I firmly believe that 50 years from now, he will be remembered for his charitable work. No one will even remember what Microsoft is.
“And of the great entrepreneurs of this era, people will have forgotten Steve Jobs. Who’s Steve Jobs again?
“But Gates, there will be statues of Gates across the Third World, and people will remember him as the man who … you know, there’s a reasonable shot, because of his money, we will cure malaria.”
Gladwell then further criticizes Jobs and states: “Every single idea he ever had came from somebody else. And by the way, he would be the first to say this. … He would also take credit [for other people's ideas]. He was shameless. … I say all of these things, [but] he was an extraordinarily brilliant businessman and entrepreneur. He was also a self-promoter on a level that we have rarely seen.
“Think about it, look, all the things that made him a brilliant self-promoter, they overlapped with what made him a great businessman. He was brilliant at understanding the image he wanted to craft for the world.
“What was brilliant about Apple, he understood from the get-go that the key to success in that marketplace was creating a distinctive and powerful and seductive brand. And he was as good as doing that for laptops as he was at doing it for himself.
“Look at the cover, for goodness sake, of the cover of the [Walter Isaacson] biography that was written about him, he designed the cover! Who does that, right? Someone’s going to write your biography, and by the way, you can say whatever you want but I want control of the packaging!”
Since then, Brian Caulfield from FORBES magazine has argued: “Three words for Gladwell: Atilla the Hun. Who is better known, Albert Schweitzer or Thomas Edison? Father Damien or J.P. Morgan? Steve Jobs wasn’t a great humanitarian*; but what does not being a great humanitarian have to do with being particularly forgettable? *Although Jobs’ products did, in fact, make many lives better.
Marketing Pilgrim stated: “I think that the web’s response has completely lost touch with the context of the interview and most coverage has been focused on sensational headlines meant to drive up CTRs. I mean let’s face it, saying anything negative about Steve Jobs online, is like kicking a puppy in front of a class of third graders.
I honestly have no idea if history will forget about Steve Jobs. And I doubt either Steve Jobs or Bill Gates even considered themselves in competition, especially within the last 5 years. So over all, I think this whole discussion is pointless and it’s sad that everyone seems to be missing the most disturbing comment Gladwell made.
“The greatest entrepreneurs are amoral.”
In the interview he tells many examples of great entrepreneurs that seemed to be amoral. Then he tells the story of Oskar Schindler, the entrepreneur that saved thousands of Jewish people in Poland during World War II by enviably pouring all of his assets into their survival and thus ruining his business.
I understand what Gladwell is trying to say. I mean it makes sense that people who are amoral are able to think and act methodically, I just don’t think that’s required to succeed. Or at least I hope it isn’t. I know I have made many decisions in my business completely based on morality. But at the same time I am not failing either!
So what do you think? Who will be remembered morei n 50 years…Gates or Jobs? Also who do you think will have the upper competitive edge in the technology space in the next 25 years- Microsoft or Apple?
Prashant Harish Hari