"The world's best companies are built by fanatics and when you're in your 20s and 30s being fanatical comes...well at least it came pretty naturally to me."
That's how Bill Gates described the making of Microsoft to Charlie Rose last night on Rose's PBS show.
Now that he's in his 50s, he's still fanatical -- fanatical about Microsoft's new tablet/PC thingy, a device he believes Apple may have to follow.
Gates described how his goal with Microsoft had been to deliver "the magic of software to people both in their work and in their home." Yes, Microsoft was magical a long, long time before Apple was magical.
Rose asked that if he'd known then what he knows now, would he have vertically integrated his magic, "the way Steve Jobs did."
Gates explained that it was new form factors that dictated the idea of vertical integration. Gates protected his Windows manufacturers like HP and Dell, but only a little.
"I actually believe you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a rich ecosystem of manufacturers and you can have a few signature devices that show off, you know, wow, what's the difference between a tablet and a PC."
Surface, he insisted, is a new form factor. He called it "exciting." (He subsequently got even more excited about that excitement.)
"You don't have to make a compromise. You can have everything you like about a tablet and everything you like about a PC all in one device. And so that should change the way people look at things."
Gates claimed that he'd had the idea for tablets "way too early."
"There were a few things that could have been done differently to bring it (a Microsoft tablet) to critical mass," he said.
How come, though, pressed Rose, Jobs was able to cross the tablet threshold and Gates wasn't?
"He did some things better than I did," admitted Microsoft's co-founder. Gates referenced Jobs' timing and "the package that he had put together."
Microsoft's tablets, he said weren't as "thin and attractive." Yes, they were the lover you had, rather than the one you want.
He insisted, though, that Surface allows you to be creative in a way that the iPad doesn't. This was a fusing of the tablet and PC category.
Rose then asked whether Apple would "have to change," whether Cupertino would have to make something more Surface-like.
Gates began by being circumspect, saying that the market hadn't declared this was what it wanted yet, but he said that the idea of Apple having to create a Surface-like device was "a strong possibility."
"This is a seminal event," he declared.
All we need now are the date of the seminal event and the price of entry to it.