Microsoft and Apple were the first two out of the personal computing gate: while not exactly buddies, the two companies, and their founders, have more than a little history together.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen writes of one early run-in with Apple's Steve Jobs in his new memoir, Idea Man. In 1982, before Jobs ended up suing Microsoft for copyright infringement over their user interface, Bill Gates and Allen sat down to see an Apple trial run.
Jobs sat down a developer to show the Microsoft guys what the computer could do, when the system locked up a minute or so in. As Allen describes it:
Jobs was disgusted--you could see the contempt on his face. "What the f--k is going on?" he snarled at Hertzfeld, who'd probably been up all night getting things ready and was now trying to shrink under the table. "These guys came all the way down here to see this thing, and this is the best we can do? This is the best we can do? We get thirty seconds and a frozen screen? What the f--k is wrong with you?" He railed on as Bill and I traded glances and uncomfortably watched the performance. It seemed to me like an exercise in humiliation for its own sake. We couldn't believe that Jobs would attack a subordinate in front of outsiders.
Jobs, who was later portrayed by Noah Wyle as a cruel megalomaniac in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, apparently told Allen "I thought the guy who played me did a fantastic job."
Allen goes on to describe how Apple managed, more recently, to beat Microsoft at the smartphone game, saying "Microsoft wound up missing an entire cycle in consumer technology." In particular, he praised Apple for being "the ultimate auteur company with the most fervent cult following in the business," predicting that, especially with the rise of tablet computing, Microsoft must figure out a way to catch up, or be left behind.
"To take on Apple and Android, whose phones won't stop getting better, Microsoft needs a strategy to win," he writes. "Above all the company needs somehow to return to its cutting-edge roots." And Allen suggests that perhaps he might have been able to help, had he been there, saying that he'd like to think Gates missed his "ability to divine where technology was headed."