D: Live Updates from Hanging with Bill and Steve

Ailing back and all (don’t ask), I’m heavily medicated and at D for the Bill Gates & Steve Jobs show live on-stage. Should be fun, assuming I don’t pass out. Will update this entry throughout.

7:19 PM Crowd shots of notable sorts, including Martha Stewart (guess today’s $5m settlement didn’t affect her travel schedule), George Lucas, and many others. Funny. Security guy behind me points at Lucas and says, “Hey, it’s Steven Spielberg!” Lucas rolls his eyes.

7:20 PM We’re starting with Walt’s home movies, and the first one is an old dating game video of a very young incarnation of da software boyz. It’s surprisingly cute.

7:23 PM Still Walt’s Movie Night here at D, and the main thing these old vids
remind me of is just how darn impressive a showman Apple’s Jobs has always been. He emotes BillG right off the (video) stage.

7:26 PM And now they’re on stage. Steve looks like he’s hosting a dinner party,
and Bill looks like an ABD grad student. And, a huge surprise, Steve’s dressed in a black mock-turtleneck. Shock. Surprise.

7:28 PM We have a statesman-like start. I hope it doesn’t continue.

7:29 PM Laughline: Billg just said “I’m not fake Steve Jobs.” Not to be petty, but that came across like a WaggEd laughline — I bet Bill’s never been to the aforementioned site.

7:34 PM First revealing comment. Gates remembers exactly how much Jobs’ Apple
paid to license Microsoft’s floating point engine. To the dollar. Thirty years later. Whoa.

7:40 PM Second laughline. According to Steve, Gil Amelio apparently used to say that “Apple is ship with a hole in the bottom, and my job is to get it pointing in the right direction.” Okay, that’s a funny malaproprism. Two points Steve.

7:41 PM Aside. Some cameraman at stage front-left has a massive telephoto lens
that keeps popping up in front of Bill & Steve legs. The thing is, said photog can’t be more than fifteen feet away from Steve/Bill/Walt/Kara. Given that he can look straight down a hair follicle with that thing, I’m guessing he must be doing advance work for a local plastic surgeon.

7:43 PM While the two guys are making nice, the cracks are showing. Bill clearly is getting rankled at the current discussion of Apple’s ads.

7:50 PM There are, according to Bill, 140 brands of robots out there using Microsoft Windows. Am I the only one immediately nervously thinking this sounds like “Plan 9 from Outer Redmond”?

7:57 PM First decent question from Walt (even if took thirty minutes, and talking over Kara (with whom there is real tension) to deliver it). Why shouldn’t we think of you rich client companies as dinosaurs?
Bill’s answer was something like, Stuff still requires rich clients. Steve’s answer is fairly similar. Disappointing. Someone in the passive audience needs to shout, “Google Gear!”.

8:02 PM Kara and Walt just tried to get Steve to flash his iPhone. He demurred politely, and BillG, sitting beside Steve, looked for all the world like he had swallowed a verrrry sour bit of consumer electronics.

8:08 PM I really want to say something nice about Bill, but I’m finding it so hard. Again, and here he’s talking about why you’ll need big-screen devices to edit videos, I’m disagreeing with him.  While there will be no avoiding video editing on big screens, I also think  that entrepreneurs will find a way to make video/photo editing doable on handheld devices. I’m willing to take bets on it happening within eighteen months. Any takers?

8:10 PM Funny. Walt just asked Bill and Steve to talk about new and exciting services on the Internet. In the most awkward moment of the night, they both sat dumbfounded and stared at their shoes, sort of like what happens when you ask my five-year-old to square a two-digit number.

8:13 PM I may be wrong about this, but we’re an hour into the presentation and I’m reasonably confident no-one on stage has said the word “Google”. For that matter, no-one has talked about advertising, and search just came up for the first two minutes ago. That’s too bizarre to be a coincidence.

8:17 PM My Google Word Watch continues at the 60-plus minute mark, and … there’s still no mentions of the big, bad G-men. Maybe Bill and Steve think they can make Larry and Sergey go away, like what happened when people stopped talking about and believing in Nordic Gods. Clearly the biggest takeaway in tonight’s event is what isn’t being said.

8:22 PM There is something about Bill as futurist that always bugs me, and I finally figured out what it is. His futurism is linear. Rather than re-imagining the future, he extrapolates from today forward to come up with the world in 2030. If Bill were around at the turn of the century he’d be opining about how one day  people will hook draft horses to lightweight houses to create mobile homes.

8:25 PM Google Word Watch: 0. In case anyone’s curious.

8:30 PM Google Word Watch: 0, and we’re done, and turning to audience questions.  That is absolutely remarkable that we did this entire discussion (I think) without a single mention of Google.

8:30 PM First question comes from … Rocket Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners. He is asking some sort of political question, but I’m guessing most people, like me, won’t be able to look past the McNamee mullet and straight-outta-Sand-Hill baseball jacket.

8:39 PM More questions, now about their respective legacies, pride, etc. Both saying it’s about cool tech, not about money. Roger won’t like that answer any more than I do, with both of us staunch believers in the “money culture” in business. Don’t kid yourself, it works.

8:42 PM Gates just conceded that he really wishes he had Jobs’ taste. Good, honest answer.

8:43 PM Charlie Brenner from Fidelity with the second-last question. After first sounding like he was going to sell some life insurance, he asketh, “Most of the innovation is youth-oriented … where is the stuff for oldsters (like you guys on stage)?” Steve points out that vid conf takeup has been “off the charts” from seniors.

8:46 PM Last question. Don’t know who he is. Something about science fiction, chatrooms, Star Trek, and MySpace from a guy who is almost certainly a dangerous Trekkie. The answer to this futurist question isn’t going to be interesting, so I’m not listening.


And th-t-th-th-that’s all folks. My takeaways should be obvious, but it mostly had to do with what wasn’t said, like mentioning Google, talking about ads, etc. While these aren’t two guys fighting the previous software battle, you can see the previous software battle from here. This will make for classic video in some future HBR case class.

[Update] My friend Eric’s live-blog has one Google mention, a drive-by by Steve at a little after the one-hour mark, with Jobs saying that Apple’s mapping client was better than Google’s. Assuming Eric has it right, and he’s a professional and likely on lower-grade painkillers than I am, that’s still a near-complete Google absence from where I sit.

[Update^2] Lovely, penetrating, and elegiac comments from Scott Rosenberg here.


  1. “Maybe Bill and Steve think they can wish Larry and Sergey away.”
    I doubt Steve wished Larry and Sergey away. Apple is not in search engine business, nor an internet directory/advertisement business, nor mapping business. The only thing close to compete with Apple’s business is Google apps, though they’re still not in the same market. In any case, Steve did mention Google when talking about the map feature on the iPhone. He bragged that their client was better than Google’s web client, but he gave credits to Google indirectly on the map back end. IMHO, Google and Apple will actually make good partners.

  2. Are you sure Jobs mentioned Google by name? I heard him say “other” companies are good at back ends, and talk about how Apple was happy to partner, but I didn’t catch a specific dropping of the Google name.
    Anyway, I was being somewhat glib about Bill and Steve wishing Larry and Sergey away, but I still think the two guys struggled at laying out what, specifically, was interesting about how the Net affected their respective businesses going forward. No question Apple has a better Google-free story to tell, but neither guy exactly embraced outing the elephant in the room.

  3. No, I am not 100% certain because I wasn’t there. However, Tech Trader Daily quoted Steve saying:
    Steve: Decided to put maps in the iPhone…we ended up writing the client app, it blows away any Google maps client. The experience is way better than a computer. That client is the result of a lot of technology on the client. When we show it to them, they are blown away by how good it is. You can’t do that in a browser…It is happening fairly slowly…at the same time hardware progressing to run rich environment in lower and lower cost devices…the marriage of really great client apps and really great cloud services can be really really powerful…
    And then later on he credited the map back end to Google without mentioning its name. However, it’s impossible to get confused who the company is based on the previous quote.
    Steve: We’re not trying to do a lot of this stuff…you have to partner with people…we don’t know how to do maps on the back end…we don’t do search, we partner with people who do search…in some cases we have to do more work than others…it’s really hard for one company to do everything.
    The blog links to yours, BTW.