February 24, 2014rambletech

"Let me explain. For some of us, it is hard to hear 'I love you' - because to us, it suggests you don't know us as well as we'd hoped."
--http://twitter.com/zefrank
http://www.lostinmobile.com/ - heh, I've loved this little UK-based mobile/gadget blog for a while, and they promoted a longish comment I made (on a previous story about who is "more influential", Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates) into a top level story.
here's the comment:
In some ways it seems unfair, because the jury is still out on Gates, but certainly his foundation is out to make some awesome change.

In terms of "computers to the masses"-- the thing is, maybe there's more a feel of inevitability of what he did? IBM decided to make a "Personal" computer, risking their golden goose of big hardware to make sure they didn't get left behind home computers. (Which, come to think of it, was primarily the Apple II) Gates was savvy enough to catch that train with super clever licensing of someone else's DOS... but someone would have done that if he didn't? Similarly, it seems likely some form of Xerox -> Macintosh WIMP interface would have gained traction in the 90s on PCs even in a Gateless world.

So looking at what Gates did, it was that clever licensing where he could make money selling DOS to PC clone manufacturers... that was the world changing bit, perhaps? This was all in the wake of the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, which provided a window for Home Computers to really take off. But the Apples and Commodores and Atari 8bits (while running rings around PCs in terms of fun, graphics and sound) lacked the gravitas of IBM for business. So it was a combination of the reputation of IBM, Gates clever licensing, and good ol' free market competition on the hardware that pushed to make computers so ubiquitous.

But Jobs did more at the leading edge of technology -- all with a little (lot of) help from his friends. With Woz, the Apple II made the home computer happen. With Xerox, the Macintosh brought WIMP UI to the peoples. Jump forward 2 decades, and he made the next level of touch screen computing on ubiquitously connected devices occur. Jobs led Gates et al on all these things.

From the first world perspective then, Jobs without a doubt - if Gates hadn't existed, someone would have done most of the same stuff, but Jobs changed things with a personal vision and sense of design. (who knows, maybe a world where IBM clones hadn't strangled the market in the 80s and 90s, with a richer variety of products from Amiga and Atari and others, would have been cooler?) From a global perspective, the Gates Foundation will really help more people, with the focus on medicines and education. So is that "influential"? Maybe. Mostly it was one great idea, licensing the software so the hardware could have competition, that made him a ton of money, and that he then turned into helping people.

(Side note, it's interesting thinking of that summary and, say, the launch of Windows 95, and the INSANE amounts of testing of Win 3.1 software they did, and the hacks they put in place, to ensure that no one would have "well my program doesn't work on the new system" as an excuse not to upgrade. That was a consequence of "Microsoft on All Hardware". It's also important to remember how untouchably powerful Microsoft seemed in the late 90s, that they had enough cash to buy anyone who seemed like a threat. Luckily, they never saw the threat the Internet would be...)