Years later, when I raised it with him, Gates did not recall being that upset.
The purchase of NeXT, he argued, did not really give Apple a new operating
system. “Amelio paid a lot for NeXT, and let’s be frank, the NeXT OS was never
really used.” Instead the purchase ended up bringing in Avie Tevanian, who
could help the existing Apple operating system evolve so that it eventually
incorporated the kernel of the NeXT technology. Gates knew that the deal was
destined to bring Jobs back to power. “But that was a twist of fate,” he said.
“What they ended up buying was a guy who most people would not have
predicted would be a great CEO, because he didn’t have much experience at it,
but he was a brilliant guy with great design taste and great engineering taste.
He suppressed his craziness enough to get himself appointed interim CEO.”
Despite what both Ellison and Gates believed, Jobs had deeply conflicted feelings
about whether he wanted to return to an active role at Apple, at least while Amelio
was there. A few days before the NeXT purchase was due to be announced, Amelio
asked Jobs to rejoin Apple full-time and take charge of operating system
development. Jobs, however, kept deflecting Amelio’s request.
Finally, on the day that he was scheduled to make the big announcement, Amelio
called Jobs in. He needed an answer. “Steve, do you just want to take your money
and leave?” Amelio asked. “It’s okay if that’s what you want.” Jobs did not answer;
he just stared. “Do you want to be on the payroll? An advisor?” Again Jobs stayed
silent. Amelio went out and grabbed Jobs’s lawyer, Larry Sonsini, and asked what
he thought Jobs wanted. “Beats me,” Sonsini said. So Amelio went back
behind closed doors with Jobs and gave it one more try.