The 10 Best Tech Rivalries of All Time

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Samsung v. Apple

There’s no love lost between Apple and its South Korean rival. Even though the two continue as business partners, they’ve been at war over the iPhone since 2008, when Samsung rolled out an ad for its Instinct with the caption “Apple Eater.”

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Samsung v. Apple
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Apple v. Microsoft

This one goes way back. Here’s the short version: As Steve Jobs recounted in a 2007 interview, there was Microsoft software on the Apple II (though not in the original version.) After that, Microsoft’s MS-DOS was adopted by IBM’s 1981 PC design. After Apple released the Macintosh in 1984, though, Microsoft became its business rival with Windows, an OS with similar design elements to Macintosh. By the time Microsoft introduced Windows 95, it had 90% of the PC market and thought leadership in the category.

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Apple v. Microsoft
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Apple v. IBM

Before Microsoft got on its bad side, Apple’s bete noire was Big Blue, which introduced its alternative to Apple, the PC in 1981. Jobs’ had much antipathy for IBM " that year, he compared the company to 1984‘s Big Brother in a now-famous Super Bowl ad. He also opined in the ’80s that “If, for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about 20 years.”

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Apple v. IBM
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Apple v. Dell

Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell got on Steve Jobs’ radar in 1997 when he famously shared that if he were in charge of Apple, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to shareholders.” (Dell has since said his comment was “misconstrued.”) Jobs, who used Dell as a late ’90s/’00s stand-in for IBM, shot back, “Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

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Apple v. Dell
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Apple v. Google

Supplanting Dell in later years was Google. The company once again raised Jobs’ ire with its Android OS, which Jobs accused of being a direct ripoff of Apple’s iOS. Jobs told Isaacson, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this … I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.” The bad blood didn’t stop Google from offering a tribute to Jobs on its homepage, after his death in 2011.

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Apple v. Google
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Apple v. Adobe

Jobs didn’t just pick fights with bigger (at the time) players. He also pointed his guns at Adobe, a comparative pipsqueak. Jobs didn’t think much of Adobe Flash and refused to provide support for it on the iPhone or iPad. At a company meeting, Jobs explained that he thought Adobe was lazy. “They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it … Whenever a Mac crashes, more often than not it’s because of Flash.” Adobe initially fought Apple on its decision via an ad campaign, which stated that “We ♥ Apple,” but “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it and what you experience on the web.” By 2011, though, Adobe seemed to have buried the hatchet.

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Apple v. Adobe
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Sun Microsystems v. Microsoft

Jobs’ outspokenness was somewhat rare in the tech industry, but in the late ’90s, Scott McNealy, the then-CEO of Sun Microsystems, gave Jobs a run for his money in the fiery rhetoric department. McNealy’s biggest foe was Microsoft. He dismissed Windows NT as a “giant hairball” and dubbed Microsoft’s leadership team “Ballmer and Butt-head.” McNealy’s biggest beef with Microsoft was the high licensing fees Microsoft was charging. At one point, McNealy suggested a solution: “Shut down some of the bullshit the government is spending money on and use it to buy all the Microsoft stock. Then put all their intellectual property in the public domain. Free Windows for everyone! Then we could just bronze Gates, turn him into a statue and stick him in front of the Commerce Department.”

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Sun Microsystems v. Microsoft
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Oracle v. Microsoft

Another volatile CEO, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, got blinded by Microsoft fever in the late ’90s. At one point, Ellison fessed up to hiring a private contractor to buy Microsoft’s garbage to get some dirt on the company’s PR practices. Ellison magnanimously offered to send Oracle’s trash to Microsoft’s headquarters. “I’m prepared to ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it,” he said.

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Oracle v. Microsoft
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Motorola v. Apple

Before it got taken over by Google, Motorola attempted to thwart Apple with a 60-second ad during the 2011 Super Bowl. The ad, for the Xoom tablet, portrayed an antiseptic, Apple-controlled future in which rebels used Moto’s device. The ad apparently wasn’t very persuasive: Xoom was discontinued later that year.

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Motorola v. Apple
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AT&T v. Verizon

AT&T and Verizon were never friendly, but things heated up in early 2011, when Verizon got the iPhone, ending AT&T’s exclusive hold on the device. The two traded barbs in ads that held special significance to users. For instance, Verizon’s Test Man pointedly said, “Yes, I can hear you now,” after picking up an iPhone, which was a reference to AT&T’s perceived proclivity to drop calls. AT&T shot back with an ad outlining the inability to talk and surf the web at the same time with a Verizon-based iPhone. Apple, for once, attempted to be a peacemaker. An ad from the company stated merely that “two is better than one.”

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AT&T v. Verizon
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