It might have been a little overdue, but two of Microsoft’s biggest names separately took time to recognize one-time archrival Apple this morning — somewhat astonishingly, right as Microsoft’s own Build conference was kicking off.
During an interview on CNBC, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates praised Apple as an “amazing” company, following news of growing investments in Apple stock by his friend and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett. Gates said that “the top tech companies do have a very strong profit position right now, but Apple has the most of all,” noting that unlike other tech firms, Apple is not a speculative investment and is generating plenty of revenue.
More interestingly, the CNBC interview apparently caught the attention of current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who began his Build keynote speech by mentioning the historic nature of Gates’ comments.
“This morning I got up and I was reading the news, and I hear Bill Gates is talking about stock, he’s talking about the Apple stock. And I said wow, in the 30 years at least that I’ve known Bill, I’ve never seen him talk about stock, but today must be a new day for sure when you hear Bill talk about Apple stock. So that’s the new Microsoft for you.”
Though the companies were locked in a fierce rivalry throughout much of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Microsoft’s relationship with Apple has been steadily improving over the past several years. And now that Windows Phones have been discontinued, Microsoft has been spotlighting its products’ compatibility with iPhones, which made multiple appearances in Build videos today, including as an input source for HoloLens annotations, support in a new screen-mirroring app, and acting as users’ clients for new Microsoft accessibility AI tools.
But while the company’s current and former chiefs had nice things to say about Apple, perhaps the biggest consumer collaboration of the day was the demo of a beta tie-up between Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa, enabling the two digital assistants to collaborate. Microsoft pitched the initiative as the dawn of “intelligent friends” working together. Perhaps these highly public overtures will entice Apple to let Siri join their party.