Kings of the Computer, together on stage

Recently, the All Things Digital conference was held, which features interviews with prominent figures in the Digital Technology field. This years conference saw people such as George Lucas (famous for his Star Wars pictures and his Industrial Light and Magic / Skywalker Sound companies which are pioneers on the digital film front), Google CEO Eric Schmidt and YouTube Founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, among many others.

Even if the Digital entertainment industry isn’t your thing, there was one interview which has universal appeal, and that was the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates interview. These two men have been the impetus behind the computer industry as we know it today, from the concept of the personal computer to the familiar desktop/window GUI (graphical user interface) that we all use every day.

Of course what made it interesting was the is the perceived rivalry between the two of them (you’ve seen the Mac vs PC ad’s right?).

This interview (which i have linked below) covers such topics as how both men got into the industry, why they made the decisions they did and where they see the industry going. For those of you who like that sort of thing, it also involves a lot of reminiscing about the start of the modern computer industry.

Scroll down for the videos and my comments on them. Visit the web-page of the video’s and transcripts/comments to get a broader perspective on the interview.










Old guys in the room…

So, after having watched all of that, what do I think? It’s obvious that the two have contributed a great deal to the industry, and far from being bitter rivals seem to be quite friendly with one another. More obvious though was the difference in how the two view and tackle the computer industry.

Steve (we’re all on first name terms here :D) seems to be a born marketer. Looking at his language, he told stories, kept his words simple, and fell back on ‘you know whats interesting’, ‘you’ll be blown away’ and mentioning his own products as examples of how to innovate.

Bill on the other hand seems to use much more complicated language and likes to get into the details. His strategy of catering a universal software for all devices with partners, rather than building really good hardware/software yourself such as apple does, seems to be the principal difference between the two companies.

One company is small, contained and provides great user experience, the other is much larger, has great technology and provides superb enterprise solutions.

Design is king!

Despite these differences both these companies define themselves as a software company, and reading between the lines, as delivering a user experience.

And when I say user experience I am talking not only about how people interact with computers but what they do with it. Every company in the computer industry right now is looking at either one of two things:

  • Proving new things that people never knew they always needed (maps on their phone, YouTube videos),
  • Refining how people interact with existing systems (new browser applications such as YahooMail or Google Documents).

Apples success lies with its ability to craft excellent user experience, not only in its software, but in its hardware, from the packaging, to opening the box, to using the system for the first time, to the standard it sets for others developing for its systems. Buying an iPod is a right of passage, welcoming you into the world of Apple. Not to say that apple isn’t without it’s flaws, but their things are generally a lot less painful to use than products from other companies.

So, why all of this text? Because as a designer this makes me happy :) It shows that barring a monoply, good design can make or break a company. If the user experience isn’t there, if people can’t easily use your products, find what they need, get the responsiveness they want or otherwise don’t enjoy the experience, you really need to go back to the drawing board asap.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the video’s? Leave a comment!


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