Jobs and Gates trade jests at rare joint appearance

CARLSBAD, California Thu May 31, 2007 1:43am EDT

Apple Corporation Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs introduces the new operating system, OS 10.5 ''Leopard'' to the crowd at the Apple 2006 Worldwide Development Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, in this August 7, 2006 file photo. Jobs and Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates appeared in their first joint interview in 14 years on Wednesday .REUTERS/Dino Vournas

Apple Corporation Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs introduces the new operating system, OS 10.5 ''Leopard'' to the crowd at the Apple 2006 Worldwide Development Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, in this August 7, 2006 file photo. Jobs and Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates appeared in their first joint interview in 14 years on Wednesday .

Credit: Reuters/Dino Vournas

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CARLSBAD, California (Reuters) - It turns out that Steve Jobs has a soft spot in his heart for PC guys.

"PC guy is great, he's got a big heart," the chief of Apple Inc. said on Wednesday, referring to popular television ads in which a hip young man personifies a Macintosh computer and a Windows PC is played by an awkward middle-aged man.

"The art of those commercials is not to be mean, but it's actually for the guys to like each other," Jobs said.

His generous interpretation might have had something to do with the fact that Jobs was sitting next to Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates in their first joint interview in 14 years.

Gates rolled with the joke, saying of the PC guy: "His mother loves him!"

It was one of several light moments in a highly anticipated meeting of the two computer industry titans at an annual technology conference run by the Wall Street Journal.

Anyone hoping for a bruising showdown between the computer industry's richest executive and one many regard as its coolest would have been disappointed.

Jobs, 52, and Gates, 51, reminisced about the industry and old partnerships. The tone was jovial, even sentimental, but Jobs did get in a few good-natured digs.

At one point, Gates said employees working on Microsoft's Zune portable media player admired Apple for creating the market for such devices with its hugely successful iPod line.

"And we love them because they're all customers!" countered Jobs.

Jobs, a boyhood electronics ace, and Gates, a programming prodigy, have seen their once-intense rivalry mellow in recent years, but the history of mutual antagonism is the stuff of legend and was even immortalized in a 1999 TV movie, "Pirates of Silicon Valley".

Wednesday's event came almost exactly 10 years after a landmark 1997 deal that saw Microsoft take a financial stake in Apple and pledge to keep making software for Macs, an arrangement that helped pull the struggling company back from the brink of failure.

One of the more bizarre moments on Wednesday came when the two were asked if their rivalry had been overblown.

"We've kept our marriage secret for over a decade now," Jobs said, to roars of laughter. Gates appeared flummoxed.

Jobs did offer two tidbits about upcoming Apple products.

He hinted that ".mac" -- the company's package of online services like e-mail and Web storage for Mac users -- is about to undergo a big overhaul.

After a questioner suggested .mac had failed to live up to lofty expectations, Jobs said: "I couldn't agree with you more. We'll make up for lost time in the near future."

Known for his showmanship, Jobs also enthused about the map software Apple created for its iPhone, which is scheduled to hit the market later this month.

"The (application) we were able to write ... blows away any Google Maps client." Jobs said, referring to the Web search company that provided some technology for the map software. "The experience you have using it is unbelievable."

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