Is it better to be creative or to steal? It’s a good question.
Which leads me to Apple and Microsoft founders Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. They both founded ultra-successful companies using Xerox’s ideas.
“Later, when he was challenged about pilfering Xerox’s ideas, Jobs quoted Picasso: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ He added, ‘And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” That’s from The Innovators, by Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs. Hence the Macintosh personal computer with its Windows-like interface.
At the same time, Bill Gates was helping Jobs create the software. But when Gate’s contract to Jobs expired, Gates was free. That’s when Gates created WINDOWS and sold it as a software package to any company wanting to license it. Jobs, in order to keep control, did not. The rest is history.
When Jobs learned that Gates was developing his own software that, through licensing, would leave Apple in the dust, Jobs called Gates down to Cupertino. Jobs was furious. He accused Gates of stealing. “You’re ripping us off! I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!” Jobs screamed.
Gates had a habit of getting calmer when others were losing their cool.
And when Jobs was finished with his tirade Gates looked him calmly in the eyes and said: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”
Who are the next generation of innovators? And where will they get their ideas? Stay tuned.