Steve or Bill?

by | May 24, 2019 | History, Technology


“He and I, in a sense, grew up together. We were within a year of the same age, and we were kind of naively optimistic and built big companies. And every fantasy we had about creating products and learning new things — we achieved all of it. And most of it as rivals. But we always retained a certain respect and communication, including even when he was sick.”

Bill Gates


Who do you think has made a bigger impact in history: Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s acclaimed Steve Jobs biography for the past few weeks, which means his legacy has been creeping around in my mind.

I will admit that I personally find a great deal of inspiration from Steve on my own entrepreneurial and artistic journey.

I brought this question up with a small group of friends that I was sitting with during our NYU Commencement in Yankee Stadium: who has left a bigger impact on the world, and will be remembered for more generations—Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates?

NYU commencement

To my surprise, most people vehemently agreed that Bill Gates was the answer.

Some of the points they made clearly demonstrated that I didn’t frame the question correctly, or that they misunderstood it.

There were a few mentions of their personal life, to which I completely agree that Bill Gates is a far superior human being.

What I was probing for was not moral impact, or who made more money, or which company (Apple or Microsoft) is more successful and widespread in the world—but as a single human being, who has inspired more people?

To me, the answer seems obvious in that exact opposite direction.

You rarely hear entrepreneurs citing Bill Gates as their role model. Throw a rock in any direction in Silicon Valley, and you’ll hit a successful millionaire or billionaire who is a Jobs fanboy. To me, that means more than anything.

In many ways, his erraticism and arrogance is the very reason that I believe he triumphs over Bill Gates in this matter.

Jobs is such a force of nature, that you cannot help but marvel at him—and turn that admiration into personal motivation to aspire to achieve great things.

I’ll admit I’m heavily biased too, in that I am a huge fan of design and art, which Jobs was obsessed with (unlike Gates who was more utilitarian in his approach).

Even to the argument that Microsoft is used by more people in the world—as elitist as this may sound, Apple products are used by the people who enact the most change in the world.

Either way, we are all very lucky to be born in a time and place in history where we can have our lives impacted by these two visionaries.


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