Mac flashback: Bill Gates on the business impact of the Macintosh (3/2/1987)

Microsoft chairman praises Macintosh but never sees corporate buyers being a strong point for Apple

For our March 2, 1987, issue, InfoWorld asked industry figures to comment on the new Macintoshes at the time -- the Macintosh II and Macintosh SE -- and to speculate on their impact on the corporate market. 

Included in that article was commentary from then Living Videotext President David Winer; then Apple Computer Manager of Software Products Guy Kawasaki; Philippe Kahn, founder and president of Borland International; and John Warnock, then president of Adobe Systems; among others.

[ For more Macintosh nostalgia, see our special report "Apple Macintosh at 30," including all the original reviews of the early Macintosh models. ]

The following is Microsoft Chairman and Founder Bill Gates' take on the Macintosh and its future outlook in business organizations. 


By having a very high-end offering with the 68020 performance and a larger display, I think it makes it easier to people who'd like to have the Macintosh serve all their needs. Not many people have complained about the small display on the Macintosh, but I happen to believe that for a lot of the applications the Macintosh is so excellent at, like desktop publishing, the small display really holds you back.

If you look at a product like Mac Word III on that full-page display, it's pretty awesome. With a factor of three speed improvement, it's incredible.

I'm happy that Apple has separated the notion of their network protocols and their network user interface from the notion that Appletalk, the wire, is the only transport for that, and now with this plug-in bus, you could buy those machines and connect them with Ethernets or put in the Ethernet card in the Apple bus and use one of the third-party SCSI-connected Ethernets.

Our publication department uses Macs to do their manuals, and the Appletalk network, as nice as it is, just doesn't have the bandwidth to send around the documents we have, with the scanned images and everything. So we needed to get them hooked up to Ethernet to tie into our other stuff. Apple's starting to take better advantage of one of their built-in benefits, which is the low-cost -- although low-speed -- network that's built-in. So Apple's really pulling all the pieces together.

As far as the corporate buyer goes, that's the area I doubt Apple will do better in. Every little bit makes a big difference to them. The ratio of PC to Mac sales, even in the United States, is like 11 to 1. It won't change dramatically. The IBM world isn't standing still. You're starting to see higher resolution video cards and a product like Pagemaker comoing out. It's move and countermove. Both of these architectures are improving a lot. 

I would say, at least for this round of announcements, Apple's relative share in the market as a whole will go up. But the corporate buyer is never going to be a strong point for Apple. 

I don't know the pricing, but bringing the Mac Plus down is important. The credibility of the family is anchored on the high end, but they have to think about the low-cost clone market. That's move countermove. You look at the price of low-cost DOS machines; it's a tough problem for them. They don't just compete with IBM. They compete with everyone who makes DOS machines. They've got to look at the Compaq Portable III, the Compaq 386, the Tandy 1000.

It'd be easy for them to compete just with IBM. Then, any little deficiency in the IBM machine they could do something about. Without a bus, they've always been at a little bit of a disadvantage. There are a lot of things that are wrong with the IBM PC that customers don't see because there are great plug-in cards that provide whatever the missing thing is, third-party plug-in cards, and now Apple will have some of that.

Special report: Apple Macintosh at 30

This story, "Mac flashback: Bill Gates on the business impact of the Macintosh (3/2/1987)," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in Mac OS X at For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.