Steve Jobs or Bill Gates: Who Will Be Remembered 50 Years from Now?

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Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the “Big Picture” opinion column that appears every Monday on Techland.

Author Malcolm Gladwdell recently spoke at the Toronto Public Library and made some interesting observations about our entrepreneurial culture. A good overview of this can be found over at Business Insider.

The basis of his argument was that humanitarians like Bill Gates will be remembered 50 years from now and there will be statues of him all over the third world. On the other hand, people won’t even remember what Microsoft was and entrepreneurs likes Steve Jobs will have faded from memory.

(MORE: We Are Watching the Reinvention of Microsoft)

So why aren’t entrepreneurs like Jobs worthy of idolization? Gladwell says, “The greatest entrepreneurs are amoral. It’s not that they are immoral, it’s that they are amoral. They are completely single-minded and obsessively focused on the health of their enterprise. That’s what makes them good at building businesses, but that’s what also makes them people who are not worthy of this level of hagiography.”

I have no doubt that Gladwell’s conclusion about Gates is correct. Since Gates left Microsoft, he has focused the entirety of his work on humanitarian issues. He will surely be known for that — not Microsoft — in the future.

And in a broad sense I agree that most entrepreneurs are amoral, only focusing on the health of their companies. In most cases, over time, they do fade away.

But I believe Gladwell is wrong about Steve Jobs. Sure, Jobs was focused on the health of Apple, but he had a higher goal. In the early ’80s, for instance, Jobs asked Pepsi CEO John Sculley whether he wanted to sell colored sugar water for the rest of his life or join Apple and “change the world.”

(MORE: 6 Reasons Apple Is So Successful)

I have worked with high-tech startups for decades and I can tell you that none of the ones I deal with were out to just make money. Time after time, as I sat with them in early meetings, the phrase “change the world” was brought up. And this is a theme that runs deep within the tech startup community even today.

In Jobs’ case, it will be the main inventions he brought to the market that will be remembered 50 years from now — and his name will be tied to every one of them, from the introduction of the first commercial PC (Apple II) to the popularization of the graphical user interface brought about by the Mac to the invention of desktop publishing to Apple’s push to include CD-ROM drives, which launched the era of multimedia computing.

Then there was the iPod, which reinvented the Walkman. The iPhone reinvented smartphones. The iPad has helped reshape what personal computing is all about. And if we read the tea leaves in his biography, he could even reinvent TV as we know it today.

We have another example of this in Thomas Edison. While Edison was a philanthropist, he will always be known more for the light bulb, movie projector and dozens of other inventions that change the world.

Steve Jobs was not a one-trick pony. And he was never in it for the money. Rather, Jobs and his team invented things that changed the world. And for that reason his memory will be with us 50 years from now, 100 years from now and maybe more.

MORE: Why Only Apple Can Promise a Better Experience to Customers Every Year
Tim Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to the “Big Picture” opinion column that appears every Monday here on Techland.

56 comments
darkweiss11
darkweiss11

I guess over time Steve Jobs will surely be forgotten, he never made any significant breakthrough in science to be remembered, just in technology which can be easily replace from time to time unlike Bill Gates who will be remembered for his humanitarian works.

LisaSpencer
LisaSpencer

I enjoy watching Pixar movies. Thanks you Steve Job.

ymmnam
ymmnam

Steve Jobs will be remembered forever!

JoshKobza
JoshKobza

What has Steve Jobs and apple invented? They just produced popular versions of products that were out for years... They just had name recognition. MP3 players and tablets existed long before apple dreamed them up...

Abeer
Abeer

Bill gates will be remembered 50 years from now,because in majority of non developed countries people even don't know who Steve Job is ;but they do know Bill Gates because of his charity work like POLIO campaigns etc.

Jeremiah Lyles
Jeremiah Lyles

This debate is odd.

One man wound up making money for people who needed something new to help them sell their inventory.

The other took ideas from other sources, movies, companies, etc and reworked them into items for sale.

One gave us something we could use and the other gave us toys, novelties that were repackaged ideas from somewhere else.

I would rather thank or remember  the man who helped me make my inventory valuable thereby making me money.

cooldoods
cooldoods

Basically it would come down to lasting legacy. In 50 years, will the stuff that Steve Jobs was part of still be around? Walkmans aren't around anymore, do people remember that Sony created them? People always remember the "first" of everything especially things that awed them, that's why Thomas Edison is so famous. The way you describe Steve Jobs, he wasn't an inventor but rather a reinventor. He wasn't the first at anything (even the tablet, regardless of what you think). But his efforts were very successful, perhaps more so than even he imagined. But when other inventions or reinventions take the place of the things he was famous for, would Steve Jobs still be remembered? The iPod, iPhone and iPad might be construed as quaint but hopelessly outdated and simply fade into memory just like the name of their creator. Just like the Walkman.

Jagadeesh1
Jagadeesh1

Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Both have carved a niche in the computer field which can't be erased at all.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India

E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

Gin Heedneeds
Gin Heedneeds

Text 3060402 to 69937 for 'Night Time by Tyler Shemwell...G-ESTEEM

/I'm i doing too much/Or losing my touch/

...a brilliantly written song about "can't wait until night time to party," with lines like,/Riding through the slum/Where i'm from/A place where crack fiends and fat girls love me the most/Some never made it home to take their work clothes off/Afraid they gonna miss something/.

-"Real and A Good Time"

G-ESTEEM-A tenacious confidence;mental toughness"If god is with me than who can be against me? I can do anything. G-ESTEEM Go hard,we dying soon.G-ESTEEM "The game is in belief"

STAY BOW-LEGGED amp; THICK. G-ESTEEM (Presidential Election Nov 6, 2012) 44-Life

whateverwhouare
whateverwhouare

While I agree Jobs is really successful at what he does, I really do admire what Bill Gates and his wife have done for philanthropy. Helping others who are in dire need is equally, if not more, important as making people's lives better with gadgets. Great philanthropists should be remembered, regardless of how people actually treat them in reality.

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

Some people use YouTube to avoid this dynamic, sending friends a link to watch and listen to a song for free. But this is far from efficient: the curmudgeon in me still rankles at all of that extra bandwidth. Instead, what would be nice is to recommend a song on a social network and allow people to listen to it without having to pay. And not just some snippet — the whole thing. It may cost them time but it does not cost them money. This would turn friends into marketers (something they have always been).

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

Steve DIDN'T INVENT the Apple II!

You can ask Steve Wozniak about that.

What I don't like is that he is given credit as the 'inventor' for every product that Apple comes out with--the iphone, imac, Macintosh and the list goes on.

He DID not invent any of those and he contributed by giving 'ideas' to the product.

For gods sake, read Steve's biography (or Wozniak's biography) to get an understanding of what he was (A businessman who was involved with computing).

Just because he headed the company that invents something does not mean that he 'invented'  all of the company's products! Do we credit Steve Ballmer as the inventor of the Xbox? Do we credit Bill Gates as the inventor of Windows?

Absolutely not! Because it was MICROSOFT and all of its employees that helped make those products.

Colin Williams
Colin Williams

Steve who?. He was a very good businessman. He DID NOT change the world. I doubt if he will be remembered by many other than older geeks and business historians in 50 years, and so it should be. He may be remembered for overpriced tech (when the mug public come to realise how much they are paying for the latest must-have gaj) which would be justified.

OS11
OS11

Steve Jobs will be remembered for 300-900 years... Bill Gates, probably the next 50. Bill Gates never did anything, he just copied "Apple's" efforts. Bill Gates is more like Bernie Madoff, a cheater amp; thief... while Steve Jobs changed the world... you wouldn't even be reading this message on the "web" without SJ. No wireless, no fonts, no laser printing, no w w w, no iPhone, iPod, iPad, no MacBook Pro, or Air, no iTunes, no Pixar, no micro payments, no glass staircases, no Twitter, no Photoshop, on and on...

MaengDaKratom
MaengDaKratom

  Really, Jobs compared to Edison.. Who Invented the Walkman? Who Invented the Cell Phone? Who Invented T.V.? Exactly... Jobs who?

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

I am pretty sure someone from a "market intelligence" firm likes jobs more than Gates, who is more of a tech guy than a marketing guy.

As to me, I always remember this when the comparison between these two comes up:

Pirates of Silicon Valley

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt01...

Marie-Karina Deneuve
Marie-Karina Deneuve

Cult, cult, cult...the Apple/Jobs cult rages on....he is the Thomas Edison of our time- a meidocore inventor who takes credit for other peoples work...

darkweiss11
darkweiss11

@Jagadeesh1  seriously what niche did Steve Jobs leave in the computer field? all he provide was innovations in already existing technologies.


whateverwhouare
whateverwhouare

Jobs changed how we, people in first world countries, live, while Gates's philanthropy helped many others in third world countries live and perhaps simply survive.

darkweiss11
darkweiss11

@OS11  wew. ignorant. better read more biographies not just the movie because most of it is edited. stupid cow!

ymmnam
ymmnam

@OS11  I Agree, Steve Jobs Forever!!

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

LOL

Steve Jobs didn't invent the internet, Al gore did!

In all seriousness, you are very misinformed! I suggest perhaps reading wikipedia if you don't own a copy of Steve Job's biography.

Yacko
Yacko

Not to mention, Edison did not invent the light bulb. There were very many short-lived bulbs around at the time. And there were sound devices and projectors of various sorts. What Edison did was invent the better version of these things. Each of these reached a sensible form, function and ease of manufacture via Edison, so much so, that they remained useful in largely the same format for a bit over a hundred years.

OS11
OS11

but those are just "products", while what Steve Jobs did was change the very fundamental aspects of how we "live"... learn the difference. So yes, he'll rank a bit above Edison amp; Ford as time goes on since everything we do today was massively influenced by Steve's incredible vision. (you wouldn't even be reading this message on the "world wide web" in a specific "font", typing "wirelessly" on a "laptop" or "personal computer" without Steve).

Slobodan Babić
Slobodan Babić

Exactly. Edison had Tesla. At least some people still remember Tesla.

Who were Jobs' Teslas? We may never know.

Jobs inventor? No way. Great salesman? Definitely.

OS11
OS11

Yes, but from a societal impact, Steve Jobs was / is far more important than Edison don't forget. Most people don't know, but Edison didn't even invent the light bulb... but Steve Jobs changed our entire way of life. Steve never took credit for anyones work, so learn to check facts before posting... Thanks.

OS11
OS11

I see you aren't a student of computing history... Al Gore never said he did, you took his comment out of context. What Al Gore did was create the "High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991", which brought the "internet" out of the US military, and higher education... to Businesses and the Consumer. You wouldn't be reading this message without Al Gore's hard work don't forget.-Where Steve Jobs comes in is he invented the machine that spawned the "world wide web". He refined ObjectOriented programming to work on his NeXT cube, (InterfaceBuilder) which still ships with every Mac to this day... It allowed Tim to create the "App", "w w w" which is how you are currently reading what I type. Here is Steve's cube, and the first web server, web client: (remove the 2 spaces)-wikipedia. org /wiki/File:First_Web_Server.jpg-So while Al didn't intent the internet, DARPA did, and Steve didn't invent the web, Tim did, they were the primary players that brought those innovations to the masses.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

But what did Steve actually do? How did he contribute to products such as the personal computer, iphone , ipad? Do you even know what he did as the CEO of Apple?

The typical apple fanboy, who ignores facts and disregards biographies, thinks of him as being someone who sits as his table, tirelessly designs the product, draws up the schematics and makes the electronics by himself.

The fact is Steve wasn't scientifically minded enough to do any of the 'designing' of the product (such as the drawing of the schematics etc). Sure, he contributed to the products by giving ideas but that isn't quite enough for everyone to label him as the sole inventor of anything. He was a businessman who used great computer scientists, like Steve Wozniak (Apple cofounder), to make great computers, NOT AN INVENTOR! So if anyone is to go down in history as having given the world the iMac, iphone, and any of the other Apple electronics, it should be all of Apple's employees.

You can't just say that 'Steve' did this and 'Steve' did that because simply it wasn't just him.

Steve will probably go down as a businessman who helped sell computers to an international audience.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

Here's a question to you then OS11:

What did Steve Jobs 'invent'?

How did he contribute to the personal computer of any of Apple's own products?

UlLTRAbook
UlLTRAbook

Well, he is obviously referring to:

"Where Steve Jobs comes in is he invented the machine that spawned the "world wide web". He refined ObjectOriented programming to work on his NeXT cube.."

That part is absolutely false.... Everyone knows that Steve Jobs didn't do any of the technical work, and he couldn't program to save his life.

"Bill (Gates) looked down on Steve because he couldn’t actually program."

- quote from Andy Hertzfield, member of the team that created the original Macintosh:

Nice trolling, OS11.

OS11
OS11

unsure what you mean... i re-read what i wrote, and it was all accurate... so you don't know computing (web/internet) history either? is that what you were trying to say?

Joshuaoseh
Joshuaoseh

You surely are a troll!!!..If you are serious, all I can say is wow!!!

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

I suggest reading Woz's and Steve Jobs's biographies yourself to get an understanding of how they contributed to the computer industry. If you have read them, then I suggest reading them again. There's obviously some misunderstanding on your part.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

Thanks again for the debate.

And yes, I was quoting from iWoz. In it, it talks about how Woz made the Apple I. Steve only found out after it was completed.

Here's a fun quote from Wozs dad after hearing that Jobs was making money of off Woz's inventions (Apple I):

"“You

don’t deserve sh*t,” he told Jobs. “You haven’t produced anything.” Jobs began to cry...."

A quote from 'Steve Jobs' biography"

OS11
OS11

no, Steve worked at Atari building circuit boards, so he was already involved with computers... Woz certainly helped, and it's fair to say they were equal partners in making "Apple" happen... but Steve Jobs had no input on the Apple |? - that's hilarious!

and that ends our conversation... i did enjoy talking with you, but Woz was only 50% of the reason why early Apple became successful. i suggest you listen to "iWoz" on audio, it's Woz talking about the early days, and it will help you piece together what actually happened.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

I understand what you're saying, But what I meant was had Steve not met  and been friends with a 'nerd' like Wozniak, he wouldn't have been in the computer business.

And no, Steve Jobs had no input in the INVENTION of the Apple I.

I quote Woz's own biography: "...how I single-handedly desgined the first personal computer".

Here's a quote from Woz's dad after he found out that Jobs was making money off of Woz's inventions:

"“You

don’t deserve sh*t,” he told Jobs. “You haven’t produced anything.” Jobs began to cry..." A quote from Steve Job's biography.

Steve Jobs did, however, assist Woz in mass producing the Apple I in Steve Jobs' parent's garage.

In a world where Steve doesn't meet Woz, do you think that Job would have had the potential to invent the Apple I by himself? Apple wouldn't have been formed!

Thanks for the responses.

OS11
OS11

well, SJ had plenty of technical knowledge, he knew his way around electronics better than 99.9% of the population, but no, he wasn't a nerd, just a perfectionist  geek...

an apt example is a "race car driver"... do we really remember the primary mechanic that helped win a race? the guys that fueled the vehicle, switched out tires, changed the oil at a pit stop? NOPE!

we remember the "driver" who orchestrated everything... to "form the win"...

well, no, Woz didn't get Steve Jobs in the computer business, they were both friends and BOTH worked on the Apple | design, they built boards in Steve's parent's house. Steve would negotiate the best prices for components, he would then sell the boards, Woz would work on interfaces and code. one without the other wouldn't have amounted to anything.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

Probably true but very unfair that someone who had very little technical knowledge of computers will probably come down in history as the inventor of so many electronic products (All of which were invented by other people).

Also note that Wozniak was the one that got Steve into the computer business. Without Woz and his inventions, Steve Jobs's future would have been very different.

OS11
OS11

I understand what you are saying, but as history is written, Steve Jobs will go down as the inventor of the Personal Computer, the inventor of Laser Printing, Wireless connections, the elimination of "physical media" for Music, Books, Movies, Games, etc. The inventor of micro payments, the inventor of Digital Animated films (Pixar), the transformation of the Phone, inventor of the Applification of the Web, the inventor of the Web, the end of the use of Paper (iPad), the elimination of Cash Registers at stores, and his crowning achievement will be the transformation of the Television which is still pending.

-

Yes, Woz was/is a technical genius, and it's interesting that you know he was first to bring color to PCs... also the "keyboard"... floppy drive, etc... But for 100 Woz's out there, there is only "1" Steve Jobs... he was the one that saw the potential to bring computing (in this case) to the "masses"... just like Edison amp; Ford...

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

So his legacy is that of a great 'entrepreneur'?

I'm fine with that. But when articles state that Steve  Jobs invented 'this' and invented 'that', I find it extremely unfair to those who helped make those products a reality.

"Jobs perfected the personal computer". As I've said, it would be more correct and accurate to say that "Apple perfected the personal computer".

How does Steve Job's legacy compare to that of Steve Wozniak's? We all forget that Woz was the first to bring colour to computers, and that he invented the first two Apple personal computers all by himself.

Will he go down in history as being Steve's equal (in terms of computers)

Thanks for the reply.

OS11
OS11

Yes, Steve was the ultimate "editor", the world's most demanding perfectionist who was able to attract the top minds, push them harder than they knew possible, then couple "art", "manufacturing", negotiate the very lowest "price" for the very best "quality" components, then package / market / support the best products humans have ever sold en mass.

Yes, Steve was constantly refining the products, and not a single item was sold at Apple without his 100's of complaints resolved on each one. There are wonderful stories of him with early builds of the iPhone, complaining of 100's of errors he'd find each weekend, all in preparation for the Monday morning meetings. He "lived" each product to a extreme.

No, he didn't do the grunt work like engineering, programming, supply chain, etc... but he had the rare gift to demand excellence from those workers until he was satisfied with the final product.

Jobs was more like Edison or Ford... Edison didn't invent the lightbulb, but he perfected it, Ford didn't intent automobile, but he perfected the supply chain. Jobs perfected the personal computer, (apple ][, mac, NeXT, ipod, iphone, ipad (and soon itelevision)) then through his "extreme attention to detail" created the most valuable company in the world...

you can read the fascinating stories about Steve, from Andy here: folklore. org

ymmnam
ymmnam

@OS11  Totally Agree!!

Sam Trutna
Sam Trutna

 I know plenty about Steve Jobs, but if you really think stopping by for half an hour in each department counts as "work", then I'm sure I can find you a company for that brand I was talking about. That's supervising at best, and in my personal opinion, the guy watching work get done deserves little credit.

OS11
OS11

what does google have to do with anything? yes, we do know Steve Jobs was always involved with every technical aspect of a product, he was there working through the engineering designs, the code, the design, manufacturing, the supply chain, customer emails, etc... what you don't realize is steve was in "constant" motion, he'd be over in software for 12 minutes, then show up in hardware 3 minutes later for 34 minutes, then over to procurement, then to their 3D printer to refine the latest batch of prototypes, on and on...

i realize you don't know much about steve jobs, but it's best to not make a fool of yourself until you do...

OS11
OS11

of course not, Steve was the harsh, demanding "editor"... he was the intense manager that raised the bar higher than anyone thought possible, thus creating products so well made, nobody else could compete. (look at the dormant shells of microsoft, dell, hp, rim, sony, newspapers, record companies, att, ibm, etc) he laid waste to all of them...

and a question back to you... how many patents do you hold?

yes, i fully agree tesla was a genius like woz, but what did he really "create"? AC? or Induction? I think you are mixed up with raw "invention", and the "actualization" of innovation.

Sam Trutna
Sam Trutna

 So you know how to use google, congratulations. Do you really, and I mean really, think that a CEO is down in the labs piecing together tech, writing code, and troubleshooting with the real engineers? If your answer is yes, go get an Apple logo branded on your forehead so that at the very least we know you've been brainwashed before you start talking.

AussieNBA
AussieNBA

But his patents were obtained through Jobs contributing ideas to those things.

".....patent application submitted by Steve AND HIS TEAMS"

You don't really think that Steve Jobs invented the iphone OS, ipod or ipad by himself, do you? (Hopefully not )

So we can't really say that he invented any of those 241 patents. Apple and its employees did. It was a team effort. (His patents aren't really comparable to how Tesla got his patents. Tesla's individual work got him those patents.)

OS11
OS11

Steve has 241 patents... here are 14 to get you started: (remove the 3 spaces) then click through them...

-

maclife. com /article/gallery/ 14_best_inventions_steve_jobs