I’m an unabashed Apple fan and Mac user, but this column on Wired News by Leander Kahney is quite an interesting read, talking about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, their success, their charitable works, and their images.
Gates is the cutthroat capitalist. A genius maybe, but one more interested in maximizing profits than perfecting technology. He’s the ultimate vengeful nerd. Ostracized at school, he gets the last laugh by bleeding us all dry.
On the other hand, Jobs has never seemed much concerned with business, though he’s been very successful at it of late. Instead, Jobs has been portrayed as a man of art and culture. He’s an aesthete, an artist; driven to make a dent in the universe.
But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It’s Gates who’s making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who’s taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society.
Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax.
In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.
While Kahney admits it’s certainly possible that Jobs may be more private in his giving, he believes there’s a disconnect there–especially considering Apple’s past advertising.
To the best of my knowledge, in the last decade or more, Jobs has not spoken up on any social or political issue he believes in — with the exception of admitting he’s a big Bob Dylan fan.
Rather, he uses social issues to support his own selfish business goals. In the Think Different campaign, Jobs used cultural figures he admired to sell computers — figures who stuck their necks out to fight racism, poverty, inequality or war.
This brings up lots of interesting questions. Has Gates’ very public charity efforts been his way of making Microsoft seem less evil? Should Jobs do more personally to reflect the iconoclastic Apple brand he’s built? Do either of these guys have any responsibility at all to give back to the community?