Steve Jobs foi um grande CEO mas Bill Gates foi para lá da tecnologia e está a tentar salvar o mundo. Por que não consegue um maior reconhecimento, questiona Bill Snyder, na InfoWorld. (artigo em inglês)
I’ve often argued that business is not war and that it’s not a zero-sum game. If a business makes money for its shareholders, it is succeeding. It doesn’t need to kill the competition; it merely needs do well enough to thrive. And so it is with remarkable individuals. Somehow it seems that if one man is great, the other has to be lesser. That’s not true. With all the justified celebration of Steve Jobs and his life, his chief rival, Bill Gates appears to be forgotten.
What brings that to mind is an intriguing essay that appeared Tuesday in the Harvard Business Review by Maxwell Wessel, a researcher for the Forum for Growth and Innovation, a Harvard Business School think tank focused on innovation. It’s titled “Idolize Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs.”
I’m not sure about the “idolize” part. But it certainly is time to acknowledge that devoting billions of dollars of his own money in an attempt to cure malaria and other diseases that plague the developing world is at least as important as inventing the iPad. OK. I’ll stop being coy. It’s more important. That doesn’t make Jobs any the lesser. It’s simply a matter of values and perspective.
Also forgotten has been a simple yet critical bit of history: Jobs, in his second and more successful period as Apple’s CEO, stood on the shoulders of Bill Gates. Had Microsoft not made computing ubiquitous, there wouldn’t be any reason to have an iPod, or an iPhone, or an iPod. In fact, they simply wouldn’t exist.
We’re not just about our stuff
Ultimately, Apple and its products are really just stuff, or, more formally, commodities. Sure, they’re beautiful, fun commodities that enhance our lives, in much the same way that Walt Disney brought joy to millions (as my colleague Galen Gruman noted a while back.) And there’s nothing wrong with that, as they used to say on “Seinfeld.”
But commodities are, in the end, simply things, and the overwhelming focus in the media on Jobs’s death was a rather stunning example of what Karl Marx termed the “fetishism of commodities.” We all know that Apple and every other technology company exist to sell products or services to make money. And the more they can convince us that we absolutely must own those products, the more they sell and the richer they get.
I’m not saying that’s wrong. It’s simply how a market economy works. But what is wrong is the pernicious belief that we are what we own. Apple’s products have become must-have fashion accessories, in some ways not so different than the Rolex watches sported by the wealthy. Check out the guy at the next table in the café. He has a MacBook Air and you don’t. Bummer. You still have an iPhone 3GS? What’s wrong with you?
The iPhone and the like have spurred innovation throughout the technology industry and sparked advances in communication that have helped change the world — witness the use of smartphones and their video capabilities during the Arab Spring. However, because we are so focused on our own commodities, many of us make the mistake of believing that the revolutions wouldn’t have happened without the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. Steve Jobs was not the father of the Egyptian revolution.
On the shoulders of Bill Gates
A science fiction author, maybe it was Robert Heinlein, once wrote that “you can’t railroad until it’s time to railroad.” He was talking about time travel and why it wouldn’t be possible to journey to, say, the Middle Ages and build a railroad with your 21st-century knowledge. The infrastructure simply didn’t exist. No steel, no lathes, no boilers, and so on.
Similarly, there wouldn’t be an iPhone without ubiquitous computing. Because Gates and company realized that they needed to standardize the personal computer and make it possible for any company to build one and run the same software, businesses and then millions of individuals became computer users. It’s no accident that to this day, Windows computers have a much greater market share than Macs. I’m not saying they are better, but there are just many more of them. The closed Apple platform never could have spread to every corner of the world, even though it is superior in many ways.
Because so many people and companies started using computers, it made sense to build out the Internet. Had there not been millions of computers in use, the Web would still be a tool for a handful of scientists using a command-line interface. As the Internet grew, the supporting infrastructure, much of it owned by the telecommunications industry, grew. And so did demand. (Here too the open, available-to-all Internet triumphed over the closed AOL and Apple’s own closed eWorld.)
If consumers didn’t care about the Web, there would have been no reason to build an iPhone or an Android. No one would need one.
Finally, there is the question of focus. Since leaving Microsoft, Gates and his wife Melinda have made their foundation into one of the world’s premier charities. Since 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation amassed an endowment of more than $31 billion in funds to fight the world’s most difficult issues. But it hasn’t merely accumulated funds, the foundation has already given away more than $25 billion, as Wessel notes in his HBR essay.
I don’t know what Jobs did with his money. He may well have been a substantial donor to many a good cause. But at the end of his life, he was focused on business, while Gates is focused on broader and ultimately more significant concerns.
In a note to the members of the Harvard community, Gates wrote, “I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.”
As Wessel put it, “Those are not the words of a leader of business. Those are the words of a leader of people.”