Today in History: Microsoft Saves Apple

On August 6, 1997, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced to a crowd at the Boston MacWorld Expo event that a new investor was throwing his company the $150 lifeline it needed to accept if it wanted to keep dreaming and creating.

Jobs had just returned to Apple as its interim CEO after several years, and this new change would solidify his own role in the company’s future. He would hold the position until just a few months prior to his death in October 2011.

Source: YouTube

As the big screen behind him lit up, Jobs announced that the investor he was talking about was none other than Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. For those of us who have studied Apple and know of almost every detail since its inception, we can only imagine the sound of the blood boiling within the auditorium at that moment.

As Gates joined the expo via satellite and seemingly dwarfed Jobs, who stood in front of the large screen, Apple lovers went wild – and not in a good way.

Microsoft’s investment kept Apple alive

In exchange for the $150 million investment, Microsoft received non-voting shares of Apple and Jobs agreed to introduce Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for Mac. Microsoft also offered a five-year guarantee to support Office for the Mac.

Most importantly, Apple agreed to drop its long-running lawsuit that alleged Microsoft copied the look and feel of Mac OS. This lawsuit had raged for much of the previous 10 years. Microsoft also got to look a bit less monopolistic at a time in which the government was breathing down its neck for other business deals it had made.

Source: Newsweek

New investor, new board

Announcing the huge check from Microsoft wasn’t the only reason Jobs took the stage in Boston that day. There was also a reorganized board coming to the table.

“They were an awful board, a terrible board, Jobs said in his biography of the board that had ousted him from Apple in 1985. Only two original board members carried over: Gareth Chang and Edward Woolard Jr. The most remarkable departure was that of Mike Markkula, the first big investor of Apple’s in the 1970s.

Source: YouTube

“I agreed [we would] keep [Woolard and Chang],” Jobs told Walter Isaacson, author of the Steve Jobs biography. He described Woolard as “one of the best board members I’ve ever seen. He was a prince, once of the most supportive and wise people I’ve ever met.”

Chang, on the other hand, “turned out to be a zero. He wasn’t terrible, just a zero,” Jobs said.

Jobs’ new board included big names in business, such as Intuit CEO William Campbell, Jobs’ longtime friend and Oracle boss Larry Ellison, and Jerome York, a former CFO of IBM and Chrysler.

“The old board has been associated with the past and the past has been a failure,” Campbell said in a video shown to the crowd at MacWorld. “A new board brings hope.”