When it comes to tech rivalries, they do not get more intense than that between the co-founders of two of the most famous companies of them all. Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple) were always at each other’s throats (metaphorically speaking), criticizing each other’s brands and products, although they both mellowed down towards the ends of their careers. But in spite of all the public statements, they actually did a fair bit of work together. Gates, as we have pointed out, was part of a Macintosh ad, and even helped out Apple when the company was in trouble in Steve Jobs’ second coming at the company.
But these were very visible efforts. What not too many know is that Gates was actually responsible for naming one of Steve Jobs’ companies. Well, even Gates and Jobs themselves were not aware of it, until recently.
In his book on Apple, Insanely Simple, Ken Segal recalls how after leaving Apple in 1985, Steve Jobs was looking to start another company. Well, to be more definite, he was looking for a name for his new company. And his first choice was, well, Two. Yes, Jobs planned to call his second company Two because it was his second company. He called up one of his friends, a San Francisco-area designer called Tom Suiter, and told him about the new name.
Suiter was not impressed. “Everybody’s going to ask what happened to the first company,” was his logic. “That’s why I am calling you,” Jobs said. “Can you think of anything better?”
That set Suiter thinking. And by some coincidence, he was attending a speech by Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates at Seattle. While listening to the speech, he realized that Gates was using a word, again and again, to describe new technologies that Microsoft was developing and working on. The word stuck with him. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. A few days later, he called Jobs and said that he had the perfect name for the company. It was the word Gates had been using in his speech again and again. Of course, he did not mention where he had heard it.
There was a brief silence, as Jobs thought about it. And then, with typical enthusiasm, he exclaimed:
“I love it.”
Without either of them knowing it, Bill Gates had actually ended up helping Steve Jobs. Would Jobs have accepted the name if he had known that it was inspired by a speech from Gates? We will never know. What we do know is what Steve Jobs called his new company. With a slight twist in the spelling, though.
(Source: Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Business, by Ken Segal)