When Bill Gates urged Apple to license Mac technology

'Letters of Note' website publishes fascinating 1985 memo from Gates to John Sculley

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Steve Jobs and Bill Gates each co-founded their own hugely successful computer companies that, in their own ways, revolutionized modern technology.

But back in June 1985, the fortunes of Gates and Jobs were diverging dramatically. While Gates, then 30, remained as chief executive of Microsoft, Jobs was months from departing Apple -- the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak and historical footnote Ronald Wayne -- in the wake of losing a power struggle with CEO John Sculley, whom Jobs had personally recruited to run the fledgling computer company just two years earlier.

After Jobs lost the battle for control with Sculley, he was demoted by Apple's board of directors and by June 1985 was no longer in control of the company's Macintosh division, which is why Jobs was not one of the recipients of a June 25 memo in which Gates offered a strategy suggestion that, if followed, might have dramatically changed the course of Apple's history. And probably resulted in millions of fewer rabid Apple fanboys today.

The memo was printed last Thursday on a fascinating website called "Letters of Note," whose goal is to publish "correspondence deserving of a wider audience."

For example, the item posted the day after the Gates memo is a letter from 19th century abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass to the Maryland slave master who owned him before Douglass escaped.

There's also a 1905 letter from an irate Mark Twain in response to what might be considered an early form of pharmaceutical spam.

But back to the Gates memo. In it, he suggests to Sculley and Jean Louis Gassée (who replaced Jobs as head of the Mac division) that if Apple truly was serious about being an "innovative technology leader" in computers, it "must make Macintosh a standard."

The significant investment (especially independent support) in a "standard personal computer" results in an incredible momentum for its architecture. Specifically, the IBM PC architecture continues to receive huge investment and gains additional momentum. ...

The closed architecture prevents similar independent investment in the Macintosh.

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