12/11/13 

Over the last few months, I’ve had a number of occasions to compare Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the way the world looks at them. I concluded, as on many other occasions, that the world we live in is really not objective.

Steve Jobs was the ultimate marketer and sales person but he really invented NOTHING. There is not ONE product that you can point to that Apple or Jobs invented. He was great at taking other people’s ideas and making them much better. But mostly he was divine in marketing himself and thus his products.

I will concede that due to his phenomenal showmanship and salesmanship, he was able to get millions of people to start using these products where before him, although the products existed, their use was not that common. But that is all.

On the other hand, take Bill Gates—a man who is probably the world’s worst salesman. Yet he changed the world.

The invention of DOS (anyone knows what it stands for? Disk Operating System) and after that of Windows changed the world. The fact that 80% of us are using the same computer system (Windows and more so Office) created unbelievable wealth in this world by allowing productivity gains that were simply not possible if there were ten different systems and languages. Bill Gates conquered the Tower of Babble phenomenon; he faced God and undid God’s will. He allowed us to speak the same language and thus achieve so much more than we otherwise could have.

Yet if you ask ten people who is the most significant tech person in the last thirty years, most will say Jobs. Maybe one, but most likely none, will mention Gates. Why?

Partly it is because we are way too busy and we just go with the flow. The flow is created mostly by the media and they are shallow and not very serious. They are NOT doing their job and with Jobs being a master marketer and Gates not being one, they were attracted to Jobs. The media’s shallowness is heightened by the fact that by all accounts, Jobs was not a nice man. Some even say a nasty man. While Gates left it all behind and gave nearly his entire wealth to charity.

There is, however, one objective measure that defeats the common indifference and usually gives us the right answer.

Many years ago, I had a discussion with my children. I asked them who was the greatest musician in the world—ever. They gave me few names that I do not even remember. When I said to them, “You are wrong. It is the Beatles,” they all laughed widely and wholeheartedly at their “old” out-of-touch father.

Their laugh faded when I showed them the dollar signs. That the four members of the band made more money than any other artists ever in spite of the fact that they disbanded 40 years ago, is maybe not that astounding. But that each of Paul and John did so themselves alone was really shocking. I guess ultimately the most objective measure is money.

That is why Bill Gates has been the first, second, or third most richest man in the world for many, many years, and Steve Jobs never even made the top ten.