Saturday, October 8, 2011

Magician vs. Engineer

Steve Jobs, the man, died a few days ago. Steve Jobs the symbol and the icon in all likelihood lives on for a long time. In this status he is joined perhaps only by one other man: Bill Gates (whether people agree or disagree with his business tactics, feel that MSFT produced low quality or hard to use software... no one can deny the fact that he was one of the first few who realized that software would be the key to pervasive computing, co-founded the first real software company and put software engineering as a profession on the map).

That is why I was so excited to watch them being interviewed on the same stage and at the same time @ D5 in 2007. When the news of Steve Jobs passing came out, I went back and watched it again and this time I found it simply fascinating - the session is about 1.5 hours, an hour the interview and 30 minutes Q&A.

It is long, but it is well worth the time.

After about 4.5 years, and with hindsight, it is so amazing to see Steve Jobs explaining his vision about "Post-PC" era and superiority of native applications, merits of integration of hardware and software, and in general, what we can only now recognize as a general description of  iPad. (with the notable absence of any reference to App Store)

Interestingly, Bill Gates, in response to what he sees as post PC era, talks, spot on, about tablet computing, significance of touch and the "convergence device".  Keep in mind that MSFT had been doing basic research in this field for a long time.

In my view, both men shared the same over all knowledge of trends and technologies in 2007, both knew that a device that is basically touch enabled and connected will dominate the future. Then why Apple was able to come up with iPad and MSFT ended up with a few tablet from bunch of manufacturers that only a few ever saw live in action, let alone use.

Amazingly, Bill Gates answers this question himself - in what I think is the most interesting exchange of the interview: a member of audience (a woman @ about 1:22 into the video) asks both Jobs and Gates "...What did you learn about running your own business that you wished you had thought of sooner or first by watching the other guy". Bill Gates volunteers an answer first and says:

"...he (Steve) has an intuitive taste for product and people, we sat in Mac product reviews and question would come up that I would view it as engineering question b/c that is how my mind works and I'd see Steve make a decision based on a sense of people and product that is even hard for me to explain, the way he does things are just different and I think it is magical and in that case WOW" (he never mentions what that case was)

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have it! This is why MSFT and Bill Gates, as great as he is, with all the knowledge of trends, technologies could never quiet come up with that "convergence device". They (or any one else) did not have that magical "intuitive taste for product and technology". As Bill Gates said it, it is even hard for him to explain let alone replicate that intuition.

A lot of things have been said and written about Steve Jobs greatness, but none captures and express the essence of what Jobs did better than the description given by the only other icon of modern computing Bill Gates: intuition vs.solution , soul vs. mechanics, empathy vs. sympathy ..Magic vs. Engineering.


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