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Jobs And Gates Together - What A Waste

I recently took the time to watch Steve Jobs and Bill Gates sit together for an interview at the D conference. You can watch it here. It was all very nice and cordial and at the end they had some very nice things to say about each other. You really get the feeling from the interview that although the two companies compete heavily with each other, on a personal level these two guys really don't hate each other (anymore). In fact, I think they rather truly admire the work that the other has led over the past 25 years.

However, I couldn't help approaching the interview from an open source perspective and in the end I walked away thinking "What a waste!". Here are two very smart guys who have competed in business for all these years when they could have been cooperating and sharing all this time to create even more great things for their users. Just think of all the time, money and resources spent on marketing and developing products that in the end are very similar.

Some who read this article might make the argument that without a competitive market there would not have been the drive to develop some of the software and hardware that Apple and Microsoft have come up with. This is a valid point. But I would also point to all the flops that been produced along the way (Lisa, Newton, Zune, etc., etc., etc.) in their zeal to out-do each other. Perhaps by working together and not against each other some of these could have been avoided.

I wonder what would have happened if the open source and free software models that exist today had existed to the same degree back then. What if these two guys had come together at the very beginning and put the same amount of effort into creating software that was available to everyone to share freely and improve upon when needed? What if all there efforts could have been tested and validated by the community before they were officially released? What if they could have devoted all that time spent on stifling leaks about upcoming products back into product development? What if they could have diverted all that money that they paid copyright and patent lawyers toward ANYTHING ELSE?

I think all developers (especially those just getting started) should watch the interview if for no other reason then as an example of how NOT to do software development. Instead, realize the benefits of following the open source way. Large companies like Sun Microsystems and Google are finally "getting it" and you should, too. In another 25 years I hope the people that share the stage are men and women who are just on there way back from sharing a drink and discussing their latest development plans and not two guys who make news because this is the third or fourth time they have ever been in front of an audience together.

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