This morning I read an article about Steve Ballmer of Microsoft fame who, while addressing a group of Standford business students, stated that, in his opinion, Google’s growth is too fast and that “that’s insane in [his] opinion.”
His statement reminded me of the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley. Has anyone besides me seen this TNT made-for-TV movie released back in the summer of 1999 or thereabouts? Most people I ask give me the deer in the headlights look.
The movie starred Noah Wyle, of ER fame, who played Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple computers, and Michael Hall, who starred as Bill Gates of Microsoft. So as not to make this a review of the movie itself, and by adding some facts and speculation from other sources from the Internet, these are just some of the basics of what happened during the early years of the development of the PC and why the term ‘pirates’ was used as part of the title of the movie.
Steve and company had the Apple, Macintosh, and Lisa computers during this early time frame and the people at IBM wanted to introduce their own brand of computer that they dubbed the Personal Computer (PC) . But there was one minor problem. Big Blue didn’t have an operating system so the folks from IBM approached Bill and his tribe at Microsoft seeking OS guidance, and Bill in turn sent IBM off to talk to a nerd that had an OS, but because IBM insisted on an NDR, the nerd balked at the deal and IBM was forced to return to Microsoft.
Bill knew of another company in the Seattle area that had an OS that he believed he could buy, so he told IBM not to worry because Microsoft had one for him. While this wasn’t actually true, the brilliant Gates went out and bought the OS from this company that didn’t have a clue to its potential value for a mere $50,000 and used the “buy now, pay later” scheme. However, his strategy didn’t end there as, instead of selling it to IBM, he licensed it to the company, retaining the rights and calling it Microsoft DOS. Gates is brilliant.
Meanwhile, in the movie, the fellow who plays Ballmer must have been a cast off of an old Ronald McDonald commercial, because, after his meeting with IBM, Ballmer asks Bill, “Can we do that, heh? Bill, can we, can we?” which most closely reminds one of George (Gates) and Lenny (Ballmer), the characters from Mice and Men.
Oh, but the plot thickens. Bill then pretends to befriend Steve all the while trying to steal the ‘secret sauce’ held in the Apple tower called Lisa. But Steve isn’t buying it. Steve even tells Bill about the Lisa computer he has which is going to make Bill’s DOS look like child’s play. Bill starts to salivate, but he is hampered by Ballmer and groupies pulling on his shirt tails, resulting in his banishing them from the Apple building so he can discuss the matter with Steve in private. Though we never get to be privy to the conversation, Bill emerges from Apple telling his boys that Steve is giving him five Lisa prototypes to play with. Bad move, Steve.
The next thing we know we are zoomed back over to Steve, at an Apple gathering, with Bill as the invited guest speaker. Bill, wearing an Apple sweater, is making a speech to the crowd, while behind the stage one of Steve’s employees is showing him a clone that looks a lot like Lisa using a program they call Windows. Could it be that Bill has borrowed some of the ideas that Apple has invented? Or is this just a coincidence? 🙂 As Bill exits stage right, he is shown the clone, takes off his Apple sweater, and utters some forgettable lines as he exits the scene.
So what is my point? It was Bill Gates who did the best negotiating, developed the concept of licensing, and basically was the brains of the operation. So when I hear Ballmer making sounds against Linux or talking to students about Google, I would like to point out to him that just because you hang out with a brilliant man doesn’t mean you are brilliant!
End of rant.
What do you think? Comments welcome.
[tags]microsoft, apple, computers, bill gates, steve ballmer, steve jobs[/tags]