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Gates was big Mac fan, ex-girlfriend reveals

And he was jealous of Steve Jobs' speaking skills. And she thought Steve Ballmer was a big jerk

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"We all bought Macs. Bill bought a Mac. Bill was using a Mac. Bill was using a Macintosh. Not a PC." Well, that's what Gates' old girlfriend, the venture capitalist Ann Winblad, apparently said to Michael Gross in an interview for a book to appear next month (My Generation, published by Cliff Street/HarperCollins). But it wasn't just the Mac that Gates admired: Winblad recalls being present with him when Steve Jobs was speaking, and that he had confessed to her: "Some day I'll be as good a public speaker as he is. How do I do that? I'm going to work on that." Of course Microsoft had had an early Mac prototype in January 1982 in the shape of some circuit boards (known at Microsoft as SAND -- Steve's amazing new device). Then Apple agreed that Microsoft could have four later prototypes to develop a spreadsheet, graphics and a database, while Apple would do the word processor and Basic. But some key weaknesses in the contract made it possible for Microsoft to develop these as well, so getting a critical head start on Apple. What seems to be new in Winblad's recollection is just how enthusiastic Gates was about the Mac in the early days. Of course this is not exactly surprising in view of the remarkable similarity between the Windows and Mac GUIs, not to mention the subsequent protracted court case as a result of this (won by Microsoft, by attrition). Winblad first widely advocated the word "vapourware" (coined by Mark Ursino at Microsoft for smoke-and-mirrors developments). According to Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews in their book Gates (Doubleday), she also turned Gates vegetarian for a time, and told him that Steve Ballmer was "the biggest jerk that I've ever met". ®

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