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3/19/2010
09:57 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Psychoanalyzing Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, And Larry Ellison

"The business world has always been a cauldron of personal animosity, and those animosities have been particularly intense in Silicon Valley. Few do grudges quite as well as geeks," writes a columnist in the Economist. He then attempts to peel back the id-driven layers of the psychological onions animating Jobs, Gates, Ellison, and others. It's actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.

"The business world has always been a cauldron of personal animosity, and those animosities have been particularly intense in Silicon Valley. Few do grudges quite as well as geeks," writes a columnist in the Economist. He then attempts to peel back the id-driven layers of the psychological onions animating Jobs, Gates, Ellison, and others. It's actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.From the economist.com article bearing the headline, Look forward in anger:

Silicon Valley is an incubator of animosity for the same reason it is a wellspring of innovation: it is a small world populated by people who want to prove how clever they are. The boundaries between markets are vague and transitory. Companies flit between friendship and enmity.

In such an environment, the article theorizes, we should not be at all surprised at some of the bilious commentary emanating from the outsized personalities and achievements of legendary business leaders such as Jobs, Gates, and Ellison. Here are a few samples from the article, starting with Jobs:

He has described Microsoft's products as "third rate" and complained that the company has "absolutely no taste". ("I don't mean that in a small way. I mean that in a big way.")

Mr. Jobs has shared his spleen around over the years. He has accused Michael Dell of making "un-innovative beige boxes", for example.

And then Gates: "Mr Gates once described Apple's software as nothing more than 'warmed-over Unix'."

Moving on to the Oracle CEO, the article says, "Yet Mr. Jobs is a mere amateur in the grudge wars compared with Larry Ellison":

He once described Mr. Gates's PCs as "ridiculous" on the (in fact far-sighted) grounds that they should be replaced with simpler devices that could access software over the internet. He drove Tom Siebel, Oracle's most talented salesman, out of the company ("I hate Tom," he is quoted as saying).

But ultimately, the article says, such competitive sniping in the business world is good for all of us, and I for one agree wholeheartedly:

The Ellisons and Jobses of this world may drive their fellow executives to carpet-chewing fury. But the world is the better for them.

I heartily recommend this article, and you can read the whole thing here.

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