Three years after his death, Steve Jobs is hailed as a genius of both consumer design and good old-fashioned capitalism, but no one ever said he was nice - as can be clearly seen when he found out he'd just got a Google employee fired. His response? A single :) smiley.
Jobs's reaction comes from a cache of emails published by tech site Pando Daily, which are actually part of a landmark class action lawsuit currently in progress against the tech giants of Silicon Valley.
The prosecutors in this case are alleging that seven tech giants including Google, Apple and Intel, all engaged in secret agreements to not poach one another's employees, suppressing wages amongst their workforces and letting each company dominate their given sector of the market.
The emails showing Jobs's smiley begin with a Google recruiter speculatively contacting an Apple employee about working for the search giant. Jobs is notified and then emails Google chairman Eric Schmidt, noting "I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this."
Schmidt emails his HR department the next day, saying: "I believe we have a policy of no recruiting from Apple and this is a direct inbound request. Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening? I will need to send a response back to Apple quickly so please let me know as soon as you can."
The email exchange between Jobs and Schmidt.
The internal response from Google is then forwarded on to Jobs by Schmidt, with a senior 'Staffing Strategist' noting that the employee in question "will be terminated within the hour" and that the company will be "scrubbing the sourcer's records to ensure she did not contact anyone else."
Schmidt then adds to this his comment that "should this ever happen again please let me know immediately and we will handle. Thanks !! Eric". This is what triggers Jobs's reply of ":) Steve".
Although the context is not unequivocal (the smiley was probably just because Jobs was happy he'd got his way rather than being happy he'd got someone fired), the emails do shed light on the brutal and shady world of Silicon Valley's elite companies, with a follow-up message from Google's VP for Human Resources even asking to "make a public example of this termination".
Court documents published by Pando show that the wage-fixing agreements date back to 2005 with agreements between Google and Apple. Jobs even threatens Google's Sergey Brin, saying "if you hire a single one of these people [...] that means war."
Last Friday a US Judge rejected a request from Apple, Google and two other tech companies to dismiss the lawsuit, with the trial scheduled to begin in May.