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Monday, 28 May 2007 19:33

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs on stage, unscripted, this week at D5

10 years since their last public appearance together when Gates appeared via video-link at the 1997 Macworld to announce a $150 million injection into Apple to the shock of many but the obvious blessing of Jobs, what will they say when they next meet?

Previewed back in February in an iTWire article entitled “Jobs and Gates on stage together – what will they say?”, the two tech titans have been invited to the D5: All Things Digital conference to be interviewed together by the Wall Street Journal’s highly respected journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

Given the theme is the future, Gates and Jobs are both approaching it from different angles, and increasingly, compete in the same market segments, from PC’s to operating systems, music and video players, mobile phones and mobile operating systems, media centers, interface design, physical design and other IP.

Both are highly successful and intelligent men, and although the event is billed as unscripted, they would naturally have thought about what they would say when facing each other on stage, being simultaneously interviewed before an audience of tech-savvy, influential people, all keen to hear what two of the IT industry’s most powerful players have to say on the future of the information technology we all use and mostly love every day.

We can certainly hope for and expect a riveting discussion, guided by two of the industry’s most seasoned technology journalists. Whatever happens, there’s high anticipation that the interview will be powerful and memorable. We’ll also be looking to see what they’ll be wearing, given the obvious allusion to the ‘I’m a Mac and I’m a PC’ ads that are being made with this week’s interview.

The rest of the conference will also be feature packed. Steve Jobs will also host his own session during the conference, where he could talk about the iPhone, Mac OS X 10.5, DRM, convergence, the future and more. Previously, Jobs announced a podcasting feature for iTunes at an earlier ‘D’ conference, setting a precedent for something special.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer will also have his own session, where he will Windows, Office, the Xbox, Zune, and other topics.

The digerati world’s best and brightest will also attend and present sessions, making it a highly influential event. Confirmed speakers include Google CEO Eric Schmidt; CBS President Les Moonves; Cisco CEO John Chambers; film director George Lucas; online pioneer Steve Case; Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore; News Corp. President Peter Chernin; Palm founder Jeff Hawkins; and Steve Chen and Chad Hurley of YouTube.

Videos of sessions will be made available to the public, with past D videos already available at the All Things D website. The conference sold out months ago US $3,995 a ticket, so the online videos will be the way most of us will be taking part in the event.

So where else have Bill Gates and Steve Jobs appeared together? It's generally rare, but we've got some details on page 2, as well as a theory on how Microsoft's relationship with Apple is something Novell aspires to, along with Microsoft's iPod marketing video and new iPod amnesty bin at Zune headquarters - click onto page 2 for the conclusion now!

In terms of history, it’s but one of a handful of rare appearances together for Jobs and Gates. They also appeared on the front cover of Fortune Magazine in 1991, as seen in CNET’s 8 photo slideshow on the two men.

Despite the ‘I’m Mac and I’m a PC’ ads that have poked fun at Microsoft at Vista and XP’s expense, as well as the PC’s reputation as a ‘business machine’, Apple and Microsoft have worked together for years, all the while heavily competing with each other.

In one sense it’s a bit like what Microsoft are trying to do with Novell, which has spooked some Linux advocates a lot. Perhaps if the Linux people could act a bit more like Apple, actually working with Microsoft while still competing hell for leather could work to get Microsoft to bring you sales, just like Novell have been able to achieve. It works for Apple, after all, and look where they are.

Linux fans can’t ever see this kind of co-opetition ever happening between the Linux world at large and Microsoft, and so distrust of the Novell and Microsoft alliance continues in many Linux quarters.

Microsoft even takes pot shots at itself when comparing itself with Apple. An internal video from Microsoft parodied how Microsoft would have marketed the iPod, going from Apple’s ultra simple, yet effective and powerful presentation of just the different sides of an iPod and the Apple logo to Microsoft’s much more detailed packaging can be seen at Youtube.

Another recent gag is the ‘iPod Amnesty Bin’ at the Zune division’s lobby in Microsoft’s campus in Redmond. Seen at Flickr, the picture has been massively popular online over the past few days.

Given the next 20 to 30 years is supposed to see more technological advance than the last 2000 years put together, as long as we don’t blow ourselves up through nuclear or environmental catastrophe first, let’s hope there are some more solid signs of that future at the conference that promises all things digital.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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