Malcolm Gladwell has stirred up quite the controversy in tech circles with an off-the-cuff remark that history will remember Bill Gates fondly while Steve Jobs slips into obscurity.
Gladwell, riffing on his idea that the entrepreneur is the main hero of the modern age, said that contrary to the current fascinations with the business successes of people like Gates and Jobs, future generations will remember them more for what they gave back to society then for how they went about enriching themselves.
Gates, who stepped down from his role as head of Microsoft several years ago to devote himself to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other charitable and advisory work, will be remembered as a giant among entrepreneurs a few decades from now, according to Gladwell.
Jobs, who is currently revered for co-founding Apple and then returning to the company to rescue it from irrelevance before his death with a series of hugely popular products like the iPhone and iPad, will be largely forgotten, the author said(Gladwell).
“So Gates, sure, is the most ruthless capitalist. And then he decides, he wakes up one morning and he says, ‘Enough.’ And he steps down, he takes his money, takes it off the table … and I think, I firmly believe that 50 years from now, he will be remembered for his charitable work. No one will even remember what Microsoft is.”And of the great entrepreneurs of this era, people will have forgotten Steve Jobs. Who’s Steve Jobs again?
“But Gates, there will be statues of Gates across the Third World, and people will remember him as the man who … you know, there’s a reasonable shot, because of his money, we will cure malaria.”
“Every single idea he ever had came from somebody else. And by the way, he would be the first to say this. … He would also take credit [for other people’s ideas]. He was shameless. … I say all of these things, [but] he was an extraordinarily brilliant businessman and entrepreneur. He was also a self-promoter on a level that we have rarely seen.
“That’s who he was. Right to the very end, he had a set of standards. If he was going to die, dammit, he’s going to die with the right kind of oxygen mask. To him it was like making him send his final emails using Windows.”