Case | HBS Case Collection | December 2006 (Revised March 2010)

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

by Anthony Mayo and Mark Benson

Abstract

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, founders of Microsoft and Apple respectively, have revolutionized the relationship between the individual and computer technology. Once the exclusive domain of academia and research facilities, computers can now be found in every area of business, government, and personal entertainment. Gates and Jobs facilitated this revolution, introducing a generation to the practice of personal computing and laying the foundation for the Information Age. Gates and Jobs turned their curiosity about electronics into a multi-billion dollar industry. From early experiments like the Apple II and DOS to the X-box and the iPod, Gates and Jobs have been committed to pioneering all avenues of technology and distributing them to wide audiences. The journey wasn't without its trials for both CEOs. Gates' antitrust lawsuit of the mid-90s and Jobs' separation from Apple in the late 80s provided challenges to both companies. However, both leaders used these periods of uncertainty as motivation to innovate, taking digital technology into new territory. Pixar Studios, MSNBC, the Xbox, and the phenomena of "infotainment" all arose from the ashes of the corporate controversies. The stories of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are ultimately one story--it is the story of the personal computer, its software, and its impact upon society. From two college drop-outs based on the West Coast came a revolution which fundamentally influenced the global practice of business.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Business History; Technological Innovation; Leadership; Risk and Uncertainty; Technology Industry;

Citation:

Mayo, Anthony, and Mark Benson. "Bill Gates and Steve Jobs." Harvard Business School Case 407-028, December 2006. (Revised March 2010.)