by Matt Kapko

10 key moments in the history of Apple and Microsoft

Oct 07, 2015
iOSSmall and Medium BusinessWindows

Apple and Microsoft recently renewed their alliance with the goal of tackling the enterprise market, but the latest partnership is just the most recent turning point in the two companies' intertwined histories. Here are the defining moments that led up to the new pact.

01 apple and microsoft
Credit: Thinkstock

Apple and Microsoft’s history of highs and lows

Apple and Microsoft share a common history and bond in the evolution of personal computing. Relations between the two technology pioneers were generally cordial when they were founded in the 1970s, but that sense of mutual respect quickly turned to discord. The founders of both companies were at loggerheads often in the past. Today their new leaders appear determined to bury the hatchet and partner for greater opportunities in the enterprise.

[Related: History of Apple and Microsoft: 4 decades of peaks and valleys]

Youthful innocence of the early ’80s

02 innocence

Image by Flickr/Esparta Palma

Microsoft was a critical Apple ally during the first Macintosh’s development. At an Apple event in 1983, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates told attendees Microsoft expected to earn half of its revenues selling Macintosh software the following year. He called the Macintosh, “something that’s really new and really captures people’s attention.”

Jobs ousted from Apple, forms NeXT

03 next

In 1985, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was ousted from the company he cofounded nine years earlier. He immediately sold all but one share in Apple to fund the launch of NeXT, where he would spend the next 12 years building computer workstations for higher education and business.

Jobs says Microsoft has ‘no taste’

04 notaste

Image by REUTERS/ Lou Dematteis

“The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste,” Jobs said in the 1996 “Triumph of the Nerds” TV documentary. “They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas, and they don’t bring much culture into their products.”

[Related: History of Apple and Microsoft: 4 decades of peaks and valleys]

Jobs returns to Apple, partners with Microsoft

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Image by REUTERS/Jim Bourg

When Apple acquired NeXT in 1997 and brought Steve Jobs back into the fold, the company was in disarray amid growing uncertainty about the future of Microsoft Office for Mac. During his keynote address at the Macworld Expo that year, Jobs extolled the virtues of partnering with industry leaders and spoke of the need to improve Apple’s partner relations.

Gates addresses the Apple faithful in 1997

Bill Gates announces investment in Apple

Image by Jim Bourg/REUTERS

“Microsoft is going to be part of the game with us as we restore this company back to health,” Jobs said at Macworld, before asking Gates to address the crowd via satellite.

“We think Apple makes a huge contribution to the computer industry,” Gates said. “We think it’s going to be a lot of fun helping out.”

Gates and Jobs take the stage together in 2007

Jobs and Gates

Image by Joi Ito

A seminal moment occurred between the leaders of both companies when Gates and Jobs jointly took the stage for an interview at the D5 conference. Both men praised each other in their own ways. Jobs commended Gates for building the first software company in the world, but Gates was more flattering. “What Steve’s done is quite phenomenal,” he said.

‘Memories longer than the road ahead’

08 memories

Image by Thinkstock

When Jobs was asked to describe the greatest misunderstanding of his relationship with Gates, he said: “I think of most things in life as either a Bob Dylan or a Beatles song, but there’s that one line in that one Beatles song — ‘You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead’ — and that’s clearly very true here.”

[Related: History of Apple and Microsoft: 4 decades of peaks and valleys]

Apple invites Microsoft exec on stage for iPad demo

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Image by REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

A new era of partnership buoyed by opportunities in the enterprise began to blossom in the early-2010s. At Apple’s September 2015 new product event in San Francisco, the company invited Kirk Koenigsbauer, vice president of Microsoft Office, on stage to demonstrate Office 365 apps working in split-screen mode on an iPad Pro.

Microsoft CEO uses iPhone at Dreamforce

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Image by REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

At Salesforce’s 2015 Dreamforce conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demoed the company’s iOS apps on an iPhone. When Nadella did the once unthinkable, using an iPhone on stage, he acknowledged it as such but also made clear that it wasn’t his phone. “It is a pretty unique iPhone,” he said. “I like to call it the iPhone Pro because it has all the Microsoft software and applications on it … It’s pretty amazing.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t hold a grudge

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Image by REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

During a keynote at cloud-storage company Box’s BoxWorks conference in September 2015, when asked about the company’s renewed relationship with Microsoft, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he doesn’t believe in holding grudges. “If you think back in time, Apple and IBM were foes. Apple and Microsoft were foes,” Cook said. “Apple and Microsoft still compete today, but frankly Apple and Microsoft can partner on more things than we could compete on, and that’s what the customer wants.”