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World fails to implode during Gates-Jobs gagfest

We led as two kings

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

We were expecting to wake up to technological armageddon this morning, following the endlessly trailed public meeting of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the All Things Digital conference (D5) near San Diego last night.

No such luck: instead of kicking off the final battle for dominion over the universe, the billionaires traded limp platitudes about how much the other has contributed to the technology industry. "I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste," said Gates, as he sat next to a man wearing a turtleneck, stonewashed jeans, and grey trainers.

In return, Jobs admired Microsoft's history of beating on its partners for cash: "I think if Apple could have had a little more of that in its DNA, it would have served it extremely well." They joined their wizardly powers to pump "post PC devices" - PDAs and their ilk - while predicting the resilience of the personal computing era.

Beyond that, the session stayed on the safe territory of the Apple vs Microsoft memory lane, latterly pedestrianised by Redmond's new Googlier nemesis in Mountain View, and Apple's dropping of "Computer" from its name to confirm its rebirth as a consumer electronics maker. The occasional rehearsed quip about Apple's anti-PC ad campaign, or satirical blogger Fake Steve Jobs, was about as entertaining as the encounter got.

Not that it will bother D5's organisers, the Wall Street Journal name brand columnists Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher: the high-priced conference was attended by about 600 tech executives, and probably a similar number of enthralled reporters. Gates' and Jobs' joint appearance was their first since a looming projection of the Microsoft man was booed by Apple fanboys at MacWorld in 1997.

In a misty-eyed summation of the dynamic duo's role as high kings of tech, Jobs uncorked a cute soundbite in tribute to their omniscience. Invoking his new best chums The Beatles by quoting Two of Us, while also referencing Gates' 1995 crystal ball-gazing tome The Road Ahead, he said: "You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead."

The conference has provided a selection of "rip-roaring laughs" from the head to head in a highlights reel here. For those who feel their spleen might burst if they watch the pair's relentless gagsmithing edited together, the entire spectacle is also available as a seven-chapter epic. ®

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