Yesterday Bill Gates took some heat in the media when he proclaimed that Windows 8 and Surface tablets are giving the masses what they really want in a tablet product. I watched his remarks in the CNBC video and they are not as bad as many made them out to be. But reading much of the commentary got me thinking. The tablet form factor may be the ultimate showcase of the differences between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Some of the best business advice you consistently hear, as well as the root of many entrepreneurs success stories, is to create products that you would find desirable and would want to use. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are/were men of great vision. But they both also created products with this philosophy in mind. They made products that not only fit their vision but were something they genuinely wanted to use. In fact Steve Jobs was more vocal on this point than anyone. On numerous occasions he pointed out that his–and Apple’s–core culture is to make the type of products that they themselves would be delighted using.
Both Bill gates and Steve Jobs had the correct vision of how the tablet would become the broader future of computing. Bill Gates’ vision for tablets led to Windows XP Tablet PC edition. This vision was representative of the type of tablet Bill wanted to use and the experience he valued. Steve Jobs’ vision led to the iPad. This vision encompassed Steve’s desired experience with a tablet computer.
I think its clear which product captured the hearts of the mass consumer market. The difference between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs is that ones man’s desired product is more reflective of the mass consumer market. Bill’s vision appealed more to the business audience while Steve’s vision, and his own product desires, appealed to the masses. Apple and Microsoft are in very different places today because of this reality.