Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the greatest tech rivalry in history? Arguably. But one thing is for sure: When Jobs passed away in October 2011, it closed the book on a 30-year history between two IT superpowers who had been colleagues, competitors and yes, friends (according to reports, the two even went on double dates in the 1980s.)
Whether you’re a Mac or PC fan, we all benefit from geek-powered rivalries like these. And whether they want to admit it or not, companies like Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Dell—you name it—all need each other. Otherwise, Android and the Apple iOS wouldn’t be running ActiveSync today, for example.
But the sphere of Apple competition (and Microsoft competition) goes well beyond Jobs vs. Gates. Let’s take a look at what could be the 10 best tech rivalries of all time….
#10 Apple vs. Samsung
Breaking up isn’t always pretty. Apple and Samsung had been long-time partners when they starting slinging mud over the iPhone. When Samsung launched its “Apple Eater” ad to promote its Samsung Instinct phone in 2008, it was clear the love was gone. Its 2012 Super Bowl ad poking fun at Apple fanboys only drove the nail in deeper.
#9 Apple vs. Microsoft
Jobs: “Microsoft lacks creativity.”
Gates: “Oh yeah? Then why did Apple use Microsoft software to help develop the Mac?”
Jobs: “Ok, then explain why Apple shares are trading at around $378 compared to Microsoft’s $26?”
Gates: “Beats me. And what do mean by ‘lacks creativity’? Microsoft launched a tablet 10 years before the iPad.”
Jobs: “What, you’re saying you don’t like the iPad?”
Gates: “It’s O.K.”
(Our own paraphrase of the typical Jobs-Gates conversation, but you get the idea.)
#8 Apple vs. IBM
Before Microsoft came along, Apple’s main rival was IBM. When Apple introduced its first Macintosh computer in 1984, it did so with a now-famous commercial that aired only once during the 1984 Super Bowl, in which IBM was likened to George Orwell’s dystopian society in 1984. Jobs also reportedly said at the time, “If for some reason we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years.”
#7 Apple vs. Dell
In 1997, Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell may or may not have said, “I’d shut it (Apple) down and give the money back to shareholders.” But we do know that no love has been lost between Dell and Gates, who responded with: “Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.” Snap.
#6 Apple vs. Google
And then came Google and its Android OS, which Jobs promptly called a “direct rip-off” of the Apple iOS. Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson: “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this… I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.”
#5 Apple vs. Adobe
It seems Apple can’t get along with anyone. Jobs certainly wasn’t a fan of Adobe Flash and even refused to put it on Apple devices. At one company meeting, Jobs called Adobe lazy, saying, “They have all this potential to do interesting things and much more, but they just refuse to… Whenever a Mac crashes, more often than not it’s because of Flash.” Adobe’s retort? This witty ad:
#4 Motorola vs. Apple
Before Motorola became the official property of Google, it took on Apple with this 2011 Super Bowl ad to promote its new Xoom tablet as a panacea to the current Apple-dominated dystopian world (déjà vu, anyone?). Apple didn’t even blink an eye, and the Xoom was soon discontinued.
#3 Microsoft vs. Sun Microsystems
Of course, Microsoft gets its fair share of attacks, too. In the late 1990s, Scott McNealy, the then CEO of Sun Microsystems, dismissed Windows NT as a “giant hairball,” and nicknamed Microsoft’s leadership team as “Ballmer and Butt-head.”
In particular, McNealy took exception to Microsoft’s high licensing fee and even went so far as to suggest: “Shut down some of the (bad word) the government is spending money on and use it to buy all the Microsoft stock. Then put all their intellectual property in the public domain. Free Windows for everyone! Then we could just bronze Gates, turn him into a statue and stick him in front of the Commerce Department.”
But tell us how you really feel, Scott.
#2 Microsoft vs. Oracle
Speaking of below the belt…
By the late 90s, Microsoft was really on a roll, leaving peers in its dust. Enter Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison, who hired a private contractor to buy Microsoft’s garbage to get a peak at the company’s PR practices. Ellison magnanimously offered to send Oracle’s trash to Microsoft’s headquarters, saying “I’m prepared to ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it.”
#1 AT&T vs. Verizon
AT&T and Verizon have never gotten along. But things reached a new low in early 2011 when Verizon got the iPhone, putting an end to AT&T’s exclusivity. And then came the dirt-slinging ads: First, with Verizon’s Test Man picking up an iPhone and saying, “Yes, I can hear you now” (in reference to AT&T’s reputation for dropping calls). AT&T fired back with an ad pointing out that Verizon-based iPhones couldn’t talk and surf at the same time. Apple responded with an uninspired “two is better than one” ad (guess it’s not used to playing peacemaker).
So, did we miss any? What other rivalries have shaped our tech world?