Emerging Tech

Poll: Has Steve Jobs or Bill Gates made the greater contribution to tech?

The legacies of both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are solidified in the technology pantheon, but which one ultimately made the bigger contribution. Vote here.

The technology world got the unfortunate news on Monday that Steve Jobs was taking another medical leave from Apple in order to focus on his recurring health issues related to pancreatic cancer and his 2009 liver transplant. Since Jobs has been one of the most enthusiastic evangelists for the role of technology in transforming society, this is a big blow for the entire tech world -- even Jobs' many critics.

Of course, even if Jobs never returns to his full-time job at Apple, his legacy is pretty much solidified (see The Tale of Steve Jobs and the Five Dragons, which I wrote leading up to launch of the iPad). But, a technology industry without both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would definitely be a ship in search of a captain. The leadership void will be very tough for nascent visionaries to fill, and there aren't many in sight right now that appear equal to the task.

Jobs and Gates haven't been perfect. They both made mistakes and missteps that have taken the industry in bad directions -- Jobs with his excessive vertical integration of Apple products and Gates with his drastic overpricing and premature releases of software. Nevertheless, the two of them continually pushed the industry forward to allow people to do more and more cool and useful stuff with their computers.

So that leads us to the big question, which one of them did more? I realize it's tough to answer but I'm going to force you to do it. No, you can't say "both" or "neither" (if your answer is "neither" then simply refrain from voting). And, naturally, we'd like you to jump into the discussion and explain why you voted the way you did (or chose to abstain).

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

195 comments
C. Imanon
C. Imanon

Say what you will about M$; it being a monopoly, shortsighted,bloated,monolithic,greedy, etc...I chose Bill Gates because his drive and desire to bring computing and related technologies to the forefront has forced the tech industry to a higher level of innovation and creativity. Great software has been developed because of Windows' shortcomings. Great software solutions have been developed because of Windows' brilliance. This really isn't a 'M$ is better than Apple' kind of thing, Steve Jobs in definitely a genius in his own right; but I see Gates' contribution to the tech industry far ranging and wider than Jobs' reach through Apple.

edgar.kline
edgar.kline

Jobs, not only need we consider Apple, but NeXT as well. Such a wide array of technology firsts! There is no question, however, that Gates has done MUCH too. If I had any choice, I would choose two other individuals, though, Edison and Atinasov!

BBaldwin803
BBaldwin803

..that the poll shows Jobs at @ 33% (at the time I voted) in spite of the fact that A) this site tends to be pretty highly biased against anything Apple, and B) as so many here like to point out, that Apple makes up less than 20% of the market. When you couple those two together it's pretty amazing that "Jobs" would rate as high as he has in this poll (here on this site).

dave
dave

Coming from a previous era, I am old enough that many respondents here could be my kids, I have seen the industry change and grow and stumble. I was part of DEC when they took on IBM with inovation and brought computers out of the glass room and put them into small business and labs and yes every time a Patriot missle hit its target a PDP died. Both companies have contributed to the landscape as we know it today. You can point out this software or this hardware or this gadget. You can point out who has gained through aquisitions, which is the norm today as companies "buy" market share, or not. Companies feed off ideas and each other in their race to get to their goals. However as I look over the years I see Microsoft has having the greatest influence. Saying that they didn't have the first GUI or the first iWHATEVER does not mean that they didn't do more to shape what we have today. iPODs and iPHONEs are point solutions not necessarily moving the technology forward as much as the mainframe to mini computer to personal computer to embedded systems. The iPAD is not that inovative as tablets were around before the iPAD. Apple just did it better and they have to be given credit. Both Microsoft and Apple were in that mainframe to embedded revolution however overall Microsoft has had the most influence.

mkottman
mkottman

When you look at the entire career, there is no doubt that Jobs has had and will continue to have a bigger impact. * Apple II - defined the personal computer * Mac - redefined the user interface (for shipping product) and launched Microsoft into the application space, with Word and Excel for the Mac * iMac - redefined the home PC and introduced the modern PC with USB and no 3.5" floppy * iPod/iTunes - redefined the music player and changed the entire music industry * iPhone - redefined "smartphone" and changed the entire phone industry * iPad - redefined the tablet computer and what comes next remains to be seen. That at least 3 industries that he has revolutionized in his career; computer (several times), music, and phone. Those are just with Apple. Add in his work at Next and Pixar Animation and there is no comparison.

dvella
dvella

I think that such a comparison is unfair. Both these men have had the opportunity and the foresight to influence the technology landscape - but how the market has responded is really not up to them. Both 100% for at least having the balls to be there.

WDMilner
WDMilner

How About Steve Wozniak?

rexrider
rexrider

I voted for Gates. I believe that Steve Jobs biggest impact is actually on the consumer electronics market with the impact of the IPod and IPhone, whereas Gates contribution has resulted in masses of users clicking away as we speak. It's one thing to produce the "coolest" most "In" products, it is an entirely different thing to product products that result in changing how so many of our daily activities are conducted. Gates is it for me.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

When it comes to Consumer Tech, Jobs wins hands down. However, in the Enterprise space, Apple is all but non-existant. In fact, with the Xbox product line, Microsoft has a bigger influence on the cosumer end of things than Apple does in the Enterprise. So for business tech: Gates For consumer tech: Jobs

kingsonal
kingsonal

Jobs and Gates have contributed tremendously to the tech world. Standing by each other, fighting against each other, whatever the reasons may be, but they are true pillars of the tech world in todays market. they have worked on different verticals of the same domain, software, Jobs worked on hardware domain too. The softwares Jobs produced are unparalleled and unmatched, Not perfect though. the softwares that gates produced, reached mass, but lost the integrity. Jobs concentrated on maintaining the quality first and reaching the mass second. where as Gates concentrated on reaching the mass first. So my vote goes to Jobs.

crownhart
crownhart

Its not about who made the greater contribution. Its about MAKING a contribution. Have you?

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Steve has always pushed the envelope while Gates has done nothing but fill that envelope. Jobs and the Woz essentially kick-started the desktop revolution (yes, I know others were first, but nowhere near as popular as computers) while Gates, riding IBM's apron strings, pushed the desktop into the enterprise where they became an essential tool for running a business. Gates didn't even design his first OS, but rather bought it for a pittance from a fellow student who'd created it as a thesis project and would have thrown it away. None of Microsoft's products were the first of their type and in the case of the OS, always followed Apple's lead in 'look and feel'. Microsoft did tend to offer relatively-finished products as long as Gates was in charge, but since Ballmer's ascension, that quality has slipped, even the Microsoft fans recommending "Wait for the first Service Pack before buying." I'm not saying Apple is perfect, they've had their failures too, but I don't consider their "... excessive vertical integration of Apple products..." one of them. Rather, that vertical integration looks destined to make use of Apple's products seamless across the board, the use of any one product almost identical in 'feel' to another. The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are perfect examples, with Lion expanding on the concept to the desktop/laptop. This vertical integration seems to work, since Apple is consistently seeing significant positive growth of computer sales while the majority of its competition is in the negative numbers. There are those who claim Apple is trying to take over the world, but Microsoft more than once openly stated they would. If Apple is succeeding now, it's through the quality and usability of their products, not through flooding the market with sub-standard products.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'd have to say, between Mr Gates and Mr Jobs, that Mr Gates made the largest contribution. Between Microsoft and Apple, I would have to say Apple. Mr Gates wrote the boot loader for Dos while on the way to the first sales demo. In the early days of MS, he wrote source code. He had the skills. In addition to being a business Hacker, he was also a Code Hacker. By contrast, Mr Jobs was management and the "ideas" guy that leaves when the real work begins. Mr Jobs needed an engineer like Mr Wozniak to create the product and contribute his ideas to tech. That's between the individuals though; Bill did development and management, Steve did sales and management. Between companies, Apple contributed the Personal Computer. Mr Wozniak literally made the first consumer mainboards and sold them. He build the first consumer personal computer in the shape we still see them today; chassis, monitory, keyboard, mouse. (I believe they see PARC's work later leading to the GUI OS inspired by PARC while hardware form factor was pre-existing)

anzaksonn
anzaksonn

Jobs, obviously! He and Apple has invented gadgets that are so widespread and become institutions. Gates has cheated and thieved and has been sucking the blood out of third world. Someone above said he is a good businessman and I agree he is but he is an ugly exploiter. But the question here is who contributed most to the TECHNICAL development... and there, Steve Jobs has contributed most. Whatever gates has done, Jobs has done and some more.

fgranier
fgranier

Gates is the Henry Ford of the computer decades

inilan
inilan

Gates, cause even though Windows & Apple products have both reached 3rd world/ developing countries, Windows is more widespread. Hats off to Jobs though.

jkameleon
jkameleon

They both hindered the technological progress, and got rich in the process.

roger
roger

If the question is about "technology" than I go for Steve Jobs. Apple was technically innovative under SJ, lost its way without him and recovered when SJ camed back. If the question is really about the effects of what SJ or BG have done then, IMHO, it's noit so clear what the answer is.

roameri
roameri

Gates - because he is a human being and always wanted to make the world a better place. Can't say what Jobs thinks about the world. j.

Dimitri915
Dimitri915

I voted Jobs... I know it was a movie... but you should really watch Pirates of Silicon Valley. It will enlighten you. Steve Jobs was a true computer geek, and I see that nicely. He was the first to release the first GUI interface to the end users. I believe the year was 1985. Bill Gates is just a good business man, and I say that not too thrilled. He sold something that was not his to IBM. DOS was supposed to be FREEWARE people. Yet he forced the guy who invented it to sell the rights to Microsoft. And after a partnership between Microsoft and Apple, Microsoft ended up breaking up that relationship and came out with it's first GUI interface for the end user which I believe was 1986. But guess what, Microsoft had to pay Apple for using Apple's code. This is why I chose Jobs... he is a true pioneer to the Computer World.

ChrisEvans
ChrisEvans

Didnt vote as couldnt split them, the industry would not be where it is without either of them. Steve wins for revolution and Bill wins for evolution - kind of the Adam and Eve of personal computing (they can fight over the dress :))

dogknees
dogknees

Both are more business people than technologists, so it comes down to whether you believe that management makes a bigger contribution than the people who actually design and implement things. Personally, I think the managers should be working for those that produce tangible results rather than the other way around.

schmed03
schmed03

I voted for Gates because he started the computing system that basicaly runs the world. Jobs created a system for graphics and toys.

ossyemeh
ossyemeh

Bill Gate really did great job in making window systems user friendly. Everyone one computer today in almost everything in life because of how simple it is to learn and use, thanks to Bill Gate. Steve on his own did well but his product are popular in Developed countries and rare in developing countries.

BrianMWatson
BrianMWatson

As I stated, I'm not a Jobs (or Apple) fan. I hate the lack of options and draconian ecosystem. And Steve, if you are reading this, please answer this for me: If I want a bit more control - that admitted could (theoretically) cause my device to function in a manner deemed less than optimal by Apple - why can't I just accept a warning telling me that's what I'm doing? I'm a big boy. I can accept the consequences of my decisions. PLEASE? Anyway, Jobs has been the true innovator in my opinion. He brought the mouse and GUI to masses (yes, I know he didn't invent it; I said he brought it to the masses), he made networking easy (before it was cool, and yes, I'm a network guy so I know AppleTalk had it's issues), he brought a highly functional tablet to market 15 years too early (the Newton), and then brought the tablet back the way it should have been to begin with. He won the MP3 player with devices of high build AND sound quality, and awesome functionality. Then he flipped the mobile phone market on it's ears. Finally, he has made every device they produce so easy to use my 3 year old can do - seriously. Not saying Gates hasn't done a lot - he has - just saying I think Jobs has done more. Admitting that makes me hate him even more (sort of...). :)

arphaxade
arphaxade

here in Africa ask anyone if they ever heard about about microsoft or windows and the answer is in the affirmative.apple not as such.

ayodejirotibi
ayodejirotibi

I have been around the IT world for 26 years. During this period, i thought Bill has impacted more lifes than Steve.

AhmedAba
AhmedAba

8 out of 10 PCs using Windows.

d_g_l_s
d_g_l_s

as the "landslide" goes the other way!

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

Steve Jobs contributed nothing more than polishing and marketting Apple's products. Gates on the other hand made something really practical, usable and quite universal.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

"If you go back to the Apple II, Steve was the first one to put a computer into a plastic case, which was called ABS plastic in those days, and actually put the keyboard into the computer. It seems like a pretty simple idea today, looking back at it, but even at the time when he created the first Apple II, in 1977." "Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. "Steve believed that if you opened the system up people would start to make little changes and those changes would be compromises in the experience and he would not be able to deliver the kind of experience that he wanted." http://www.cultofmac.com/john-sculley-on-steve-jobs-the-full-interview-transcript/63295?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+cultofmac/bFow+(Cult+of+Mac)

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Oldsmobile initiated the assembly line first? Where is Oldsmobile today?

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Exactly how did they hinder? Where would we be in the computing world if they hadn't done their things?

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Your Q. is backwards. Gates and Jobs never tried to further technology unless it furthered their reach and control and profits. Gates by far did more to hurt progress because he beat out Jobs in the PC wars. Plus, if Gates hadn't put 100 Million into Apple, would it have survived. It's really strange that MS doesn't compete much with Apple now. It's like they're really not interested in that market to any great degree. Strange since Bill Gates owns both companies. The truth is that Xerox had a b/w system of windows back in the mid 80's that isn't much different from either windows or apple today. I know because we had them and I worked on them. Jobs and Gates took that tech. and tried to control it over the years along with everything else connected to it. That's why there's really only one software company in the world today. The ones Bill Gates owns.

mycya4me
mycya4me

I agree too! The Woz was the Brains behind Apple..Steve is the Face of Apple. Bill copies, steals ect!..

mike
mike

Since he wants to control the experience that the user sees as that of his own vision. That says it all. With MS you may not get the code, but you can pretty much upgrade anything in the box from day one. So in that aspect, you control the experience. Not Steve Jobs...

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can see The Woz figuring out the physical case design based on Mr Jobs input but I don't see Mr Jobs sitting down beside The Woz with the soldering iron in hand. My perception would be Mr Jobs; "these mainboards are selling like hot cakes, can we put them into pre-assembled machines for non-hobbists?" after which, The Woz is left to figure out the hardware. In your provided quotes, I see "Steve" used generally in a way that makes sense, for example; "[Apple] was the first one to put a computer into a plastic case." "Steve" used specifically makes less sense; "Steve was the first one to put a computer" - Steve who? Steve W.. probably the first one being that he did the hands on hardware dev work. Steve J.. less probable, I can't remember historical or film reference depicting him as the hands on hardware or software developer. I have seen him depicted and described as the hands on manager and idea guy but that's hands on the people who have their hands on the product. The second quote; I just don't see the relevance. It is a fair point on it's own; Mr Jobs was good at finding people (social preferences not withstanding). Finding contributors is not like being a contributor though. While Mr Jobs contributed ideas in product development, did he work below that level in code or chips? A high level product designer; sure. The third quote; I'm guessing this supports Apple's choice to remain a closed and controlled product line. The irony is that they originally took hold because they developed an open system people could tinker with. They became popular because The Woz put so much value on consumer ability to tinker. They got VC interest becaue they ha gained popularity among the hobby croud. (If you like, I can look up the HOPE talk he gives in addition to his attendance on the Retro Computing panel talk. No matter what one thinks about Apple's past or future, you gotta love The Woz.)

jkameleon
jkameleon

Stifling of competition, marketing interfering with R&D, stuff like that. Probably the worst damage M$ has done were the countless man years, that could be utilized far more productively, wasted because of - Buggy OS & development tools. Man hours saved on development and testing in M$, were paid many times over by the unhappy users of those products. For every BSoD, Gates made a dollar. - Marketing riding roughshod over tehnological professionalism. Terminology was changed on annual basis, to create illusion of progress. Crappy, unproductive concepts like MTS/COM/COM+ were aggresively marketed, and people forced to use them for no good reason. The best illustration of this is probably Hungarian notation.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I believe MS Apple shares where managed similar to MS Novell shares; they promptly sold them all off once the related crisis passed. MS has long since sold it's Apple shares from what I understand.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Gates does not own Apple. (Owning implies having more than 51% of Apple's stock.) If by 'owning' you mean he owns stock, then so do I since I own shares as well. But to say Gates owns a controlling share is just plain not true.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... who have no idea how to control that experience? The techies and the hobbyists have the know-how, the rest are merely users stuck with whatever their IT gives them. On the other hand, once these non-techies get the feel of an Apple, they tend to start realizing there's an option out there. I've seen more than one IT professional adopt OS X and Apple for their home computing.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

" Q: But this control extends to every aspect of the product ? even to opening the box. The experience of opening the box is designed by Steve Jobs. Sculley: The original Mac really had no operating system. People keep saying, "Well why didn't we license the operating system?" The simple answer is that there wasn't one. It was all done with lots of tricks with hardware and software. Microprocessors in those days were so weak compared to what we had today. In order to do graphics on a screen you had to consume all of the power of the processor. Then you had to glue chips all around it to enable you to offload other functions. Then you had to put what are called ?calls to ROM.? There were 400 calls to ROM, which were all the little subroutines that had to be offloaded into the ROM because there was no way you could run these in real time. All these things were neatly held together. It was totally remarkable that you could deliver a machine when you think the first processor on the Mac was less than three MIPs (Million Instructions Per Second), which today would be ? I can?t think of any device which has three MIPS, or equivalent. Even your digital watch is at least 200 or 300 times more powerful than the first Macintosh. (NOTE. For comparison, today?s entry-level iMac uses an Intel Core i3 chip, rated at over 40,000 MIPS!) " It's mindblowing to think that the original Apple was all ROM; no real OS. Other's had Basic on the ROM chip, Apple had a freaking GUI on the ROM chips. " It?s hard to conceive how he was able to accomplish so much with so little in those days. "... Steve Wozniak. Nuff said. ... "So for someone to build consumer products in the 1980s beyond what we did with the first Mac was literally impossible. In the 1990s with Moore?s Law and other things, the homogenization of technology, it became possible to begin to see what consumer products would look like but you couldn?t really build them. It really hasn?t been until the turn of the century that you sort of got the crossover between the cost of components, the commoditization and the miniaturization that you need for consumer products. The performance suddenly reached the point where you could actually build things that we can call digital consumer products. Because Steve?s design methodology was so correct even 25 years ago he was able to make a design methodology ? his first principles ? of user experience, focus on just a few things, look at the system, never compromise, compare yourself not to other electronic products but compare yourself to the finest pieces of jewelry ? all those criteria ? no one else was thinking about that. Everyone else was just going through an evolution of cheap products that are getting more powerful and cheaper to build. Like the MP3 player. Remember when he came in with the iPod, there were thousands of MP3 players out there. Can anyone else remember any of the others? " If the question had have been; "who contributed more to tech Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak".. The Woz.. hands down.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm just pulling your second and third quote in greater context: " When I first saw the Macintosh ? it was in the process of being created ? it was basically just a series of components over what is called a bread board. It wasn?t anything, but Steve had this ability to reach out to find the absolute best, smartest people he felt were out there. He was extremely charismatic and extremely compelling in getting people to join up with him and he got people to believe in his visions even before the products existed. When I met the Mac team, which eventually got to 100 people but the time I met him it was much smaller, the average age was 22. " So, Mr Jobs is great at finding people with the skills needed to do the work; he didn't actually do the work himself. He had the product idea then employed the skills needed to take it further than being just an idea. This quote is really about how he managed a company not what he contributed to technology. He is a fantastic salesman, he can sell you on the idea of a product that does not exist yet. That is some serious social engineering skills. He's got me beat, but does he have Mr Gates beat in terms of selling smoke? Gates also sold product prior to obtaining it (let alone prior to writing parts of it). " Q: Where did he get the idea for controlling the whole widget? The idea to be in charge of everything, the whole system? Sculley: Steve believed that if you opened the system up people would start to make little changes and those changes would be compromises in the experience and he would not be able to deliver the kind of experience that he wanted. " This one is clearly Mr Jobs as Mr Wozniak has said outright that his decision was to keep the system open to tinkering. It was because of tinkering that he even invented the Apple PC. Tinkering was how technology truly evolved; not through big business retail strategy but the consumer's freedom to try and push that owned device beyond it's factory intent. The quote does support Apple's control issues and Mr Jobs related public outbursts. that was the question asked and answered. It does not contribute to the product, it limits what can be contributed to the product. Off topic but I personally think it the consumers right to tinker with their purchased products even if that puts the designer's intended "experience" at risk. If I buy a Rembrandt, I'm perfectly within my owner's rights to "imiprove" the viewing experience by adding my own brush strokes on top. Art's entire value is "the experience" but gadgets have functionality beyond experiencing how the original product designer assumed it would be used. This is something that places me firmly outside the Apple target customer for most of it's products; fair enough by both our choices. " The other thing about Steve was that he did not respect large organizations. He felt that they were bureaucratic and ineffective. He would basically call them ?bozos.? That was his term for organizations that he didn?t respect. " Please Hold. I gotta go look up the definition of Irony. ;P

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Yes, I understood that it was Mr Skully being interviewed and that it's clear Mr Jobs was the ideas guy. He's talking about the Jobs method of product design. Great, so Mr Jobs developed an aproach to managing design projects; did he have engineering skills to get down into it or just management and sales skills? Outside of executive management, was he more than the fashion director and pretty face of Apple between the two original employees? What I still don't understand is Mr Skully speaking of "steve" the person or "steve and CO" the company which happen to be started by "steve". again: "[Apple] was the first to put it in a plastic box" versus "steve jobs was the first to build a plastic box and put the computer and keyboard in it".. "Steve W".. sure, he'd actually be the guy taking Mr Jobs idea, figuring out how to produce it physically and stuffing the chip board into it. Hence, my original answer to the article question: Answering by individual; Mr Gates, he actually worked on product source code in the early days where Mr Jobs. As an individual, he contributed strategy, product ideas and actual production of product. Mr Jobs seems to have contributed strategy and ideas without the hands on product development beyond; "product model looks great, smooth these edges here more though". Answering by company; Apple, the company who's original form factor is still obvious in the modern desktop and who legally and ethically delivered an OS inspired by PARC's work.

egeorge
egeorge

They did it right,at least when Jobs wasn't stealing from Woz.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

But without Jobs, there wouldn't be an Apple either. It took two to tango, and those two did it right.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

The quotes were direct from John Scully, Apple's first corporate CEO.

mike
mike

Without Woz, there is no apple...