So the big Ballmer meeting just went down and I’m still shaking — with rage, not fear. Pure rage. I mean, literally, my hands are all frigged up and I can’t even type. I have Ja’Red typing this for me.
Here’s how it went down. He arrived with some handlers who all looked like junior versions of the Beastmaster — same glasses, same doofy haircuts and bad clothes. Instead of having a fancy lunch brought in I took them down to the Apple cafeteria so my serfs could see me leading the enemy king around on a leash. Stepped into a deli and Ballmer goes up and tilts his head back and starts scanning the menu on the wall, going, “Unh, unh, lessee …” and one of our guys in line shouts out, “PASTRAMI, PASTRAMI, PASTRAMI, PASTRAMI!!!!” Big laugh from the Appleites. MicroTards pretended to laugh along but they were looking uncomfortable — like some gang dudes who just realized they’d strayed into the wrong territory wearing the wrong colors. In other words, So far so good.
After lunch — I drank a half bottle of water and felt my soul dying as I watched Monkey Boy chow down on some kind of meat product — we go back to the Jobs Pod and Ballmer tells his guys to sit and they all do, just like a pack of little beagles, side by side on a couch in the waiting room. Monkey Boy and I sit down in my conference room and Ballmer starts going on about how exciting it is to see Apple doing so well and gaining market share and designing such beautiful machines, and how one of his kids brought home a MacBook Pro and was loving it but unfortunately it suffered a little accident involving a Ford Explorer, boohoo.
So I tell him flat out to quit blowing sunshine up my ass and get to the point because I know he isn’t here for a chit chat. Trust me, when the Borg sets up a meeting, it’s because they’ve found something of yours that they want and they think they’ve found a way to steal it from you. If you’re small and/or stupid they’ll pretend they’re super interested in what you’re doing and tell you how cool you are and promise to form a partnership with you and make you rich beyond your wildest dreams.
If you’re Steve Jobs, they usually just come to the point because there’s no sense in pretending that either of us ever intends to play nice. Nevertheless the Monkey Man still keeps beating around the bush, saying what a great relationship Microsoft and Apple have had for so many years now, and he quotes that Beatles line about how we have memories longer than the road that stretches on ahead and how that was so beautiful when I said that at D and he got all teary backstage. He says Microsoft just loves selling Office on the Apple platform and really wants to continue being Apple’s biggest app vendor, and I’m like, Of course you like it, because you get early access to our OS technology that you can copy and put into yours. He says there’s no need to be all angry and confrontational, and besides the OS group at Microsoft is completely separate from the apps group, they don’t share information, blah blah, and by the way since I brought up the subject of OS technology being “borrowed” he can’t help but mention that some things in Leopard look a lot like stuff in Vista.
Which brings me to my point, he says, but unfortunately it doesn’t really bring him to his point because he starts going about intellectual property and how our two companies could both benefit from sharing our patent portfolios and cross-licensing our technology, and Apple has lots of great stuff and so does Microsoft and maybe we could find a way to work together in a new way that could be a model for the industry and this kind of bridge-building and interoperability is really what customers are crying out for and Microsoft has been reaching out to the Linux community and now that Apple is getting so much traction and market share it’s important that Microsoft work well with our stuff and make sure that everything work together in the best interest of customers, blah blah mwah mwah.
I’m like, Fester, trust me, there’s nothing you guys have that we want. I’m sorry but it’s just the truth. We roll our own and we like it that way.
He’s like, Yeah, well, see, that’s kinda what I want to talk about, and see, I didn’t want to just send our lawyers to have this conversation without at least talking to you about it personally, CEO to CEO, you know? But see we’ve gone through our huge patent portfolio and it looks like there’s about a hundred major patents of ours that you guys are infringing upon and some of them are for really big fundamental stuff that you can’t just work around. And, well, we feel that you’ll agree with us that respecting intellectual property is one of the most important things for a big company like Apple.
For a moment I just sit there. I’m kind of stunned, frankly. Then I go, Well, okay, so let’s look through this portfolio and see what you’ve got. Fester says he doesn’t have that material with him, he just wants to have a talk, and I say, Okay, fine, have your lawyers show the stuff to our lawyers and we’ll talk again. But he says, Oh, well, see, we can’t actually show you the patents. They’re totally secret and proprietary. I’m sure you understand.
I’m like, So you want me to pay you a licensing fee for patents that you won’t even show me, and you think that’s something I’ll understand? He says they don’t necessarily want a licensing fee, but more like a cross-licensing agreement, sort of a bridge-building collaboration cooperation type thing where we share technology with each other and we could reassure customers that we really have their best interest at heart.
I go, So basically you want us to give you all of our cool OS technology and other technology in exchange for some stuff that you won’t even show us or even tell us what it is? Stuff that may or may not even exist? Let me tell you something. Here at Apple we have a standard response for this kind of request. It’s called siooma. Have you heard of it?
He says he hasn’t heard that word before, is it some kind of Hindu word from Tibet or something? So I explain to him that it means “Suck It Out Of My Ass.” Then I go on to explain to him that seriously, all joking aside, he should go sit in a room and slam chairs against a wall, or whatever else he does for fun, but if he thinks I’m going to make a deal with him then he must be out of his fucking mind.
He gets real calm. He waits a long time. Then he says, in a very soft voice, Jobso, I’m not out of my mind. I’m the CEO of a company called Microsoft. Have you heard of it? I’ve got a $270 billion market cap. I’ve got more money in my back pocket than your entire company takes in in a year. So take some free advice, hippie. Don’t fight me on this. Okay?
He smiles and gets up and leaves. And here I am, still seething.
Beastmaster, Monkey Boy, and all the rest of you in Redmond, listen close and hear what I’m about to say: We will fight you on the desktop. We will fight you on the Internet. We will fight you in the browser space, and in desktop productivity apps. We will fight you in music players and smart phones. We will never surrender. We will never make peace. We will never stop fighting. Never, ever, ever.