Most would expect the children of the world's third richest man to have grown up spoilt by a constant supply of the very latest in cutting-edge gadgets. But yesterday it emerged that the offspring of Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, are forbidden from owning the planet's number one gadget – the iPod.
In an interview with Vogue magazine, the billionaire's wife, Melinda, admitted that her husband has banned his family from using any products manufactured by Apple, his company's chief rivals.
The couple live with their three children – Jennifer, 13, Phoebe, seven, and Rory, 10 – in a giant mansion overlooking Lake Washington near Seattle. The house boasts the latest in technological wizardry, from automatic lighting to under-floor heating and hidden speakers. "There are very few things that are on the banned list," Mrs Gates said. "But iPods and iPhones are two things we don't get for our kids."
Mrs Gates, 44, who co-founded the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 1994, admitted that she was a secret admirer of Apple's mobile phone. "Every now and then I look at my friend's and say 'Ooh, I wouldn't mind having that'," she said. According to Forbes magazine, Bill Gates is the world's third richest man, with a fortune of close to $60bn (£42.7bn) amassed through Microsoft.
Although he is known to spend much of his time glued to his computer – a PC, of course, not a Mac – his wife said that both she and her husband occasionally enjoyed escaping from technology. "When we leave for holidays, we often go to some place completely remote," she said. "We have no email, we don't check voicemail. We unplug completely."
In 2006, Gates stepped down from his role as chief executive of Microsoft, which he co-founded in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen, to concentrate on philanthropic work. He is now the company's chairman and has less of an interest in its business affairs.
During his time in charge, a keen rivalry formed between Mr Gates and the charismatic chief executive of Apple, Steve Jobs, who co-founded his company one year after Mr Gates created his. Mr Jobs once described the widespread use of his company's iTunes music program by PC users as "like offering a glass of ice water to someone in hell".
Both companies have also run aggressive advertising campaigns. Apple's series starred the comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb; it implied that PC users were boring and uncool compared with those who owned Macs. Last year, Microsoft countered with a campaign of its own, featuring celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and even Mr Gates himself.
However, in 2007 the two men made a rare public appearance together at a technology conference and appeared to have settled their differences, complimenting each other on their various business achievements.