In case you missed it, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates were on the same stage recently.
It was a fascinating exchange—a view of the past, a look at the present, and thoughts on the future. What was missing? Good questions.
In a rare appearance, both Jobs and Gates appeared together on stage this week at the D – All Things Digital Conference, hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal.
In case you couldn’t cough up the $4,000 attendance fee for the conference, D | All Things Digital has provided videos online of the Jobs vs. Gates interview. Actually, it was a non-interview, though the video clips offer a unique glimpse at two of originating and driving forces in personal computing.
Three things struck me as I listened intently to an hour or so of video conversation—more from Steve Jobs than Bill Gates, less from Kara Swisher than Walt Mossberg.
The first thing that struck me was Bill Gates’ seeming inability to complete a coherent sentence or to articulate effectively a view of the past or the future.
The second thing that struck me was Steve Jobs’ ability to articulate both, keep the past where it belongs, but show a disciplined, pragmatic approach to conducting business today. It was a remarkable show.
The third thing that struck me was the poor quality of the questions from Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. Seriously.
These are high paid, well respected journalists with extensive credentials.
They’re not neophytes in the high tech industry. They managed to pull two high tech titans together on the same stage, each of whom shares history, and are major competitors.
The questions Walt and Kara tossed at Jobs and Gates during the interview had to have been thought up by homeless people standing in line at a soup kitchen.
Seriously. How about this one from Kara—
The Grammar Police would have a field day writing tickets. You’ve heard of Clara Peller’s, “Where’s the beef?” How about, “Where’s the beefy questions?”
Jobs and Gates are industry heavyweights, on stage together, with two accomplished journalists who struggle and fail to mutter a coherent sentence in the form of an intriguing or interesting question.
Take Walt. Please. Trust me, it doesn’t get better as the interview progresses.
See what I mean? It gets worse, but it’s not much better at any point. While I thoroughly enjoyed Steve and Bill’s responses, it became painfully clear that the questions were softies, lobbed up at slow pitch speed so as not to antagonize or embarass either executive.
Worse, the questioning was nearly incoherent, often lost in a sentence structure that would drive any high school English teacher to an early retirement.
There’s an online transcript which has been cleaned up considerably, so it will not do justice to the lack of interviewing technique and poor questions.
The video clips of Steve and Bill are priceless; full of insights to the past, full of perspectives for the present, with a brief glimpse here and there of what Apple may be up to for the future.
Personally, I was disappointed in the questions from Walt and Kara. Judge for yourself. The responses were, at times, fascinating. I often wondered how far detached from reality Bill Gates has become. Looks on Steve Jobs’ face indicated a steel resolve to balance the scales. Soon.
Frankly, I think Mac360 readers could ask more interesting and straightforward questions to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Are you up for it? What questions would you ask for the world’s top two high tech leaders?
Update – The entire 90-minute interview is now available for free download, audio and video, from iTunes Store. Be forewarned. The video file is over 990 megabytes.
Share your questions (and motivations) in the Comment section below.