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Microsoft recently marked the 10th anniversary of Halo, bringing back lots of fond memories of the blockbuster Xbox franchise. And of course we’ve been innundated with great stories about Steve Jobs since the Apple co-founder passed away early this year.

But this week’s GeekWire podcast features a great story about both Jobs and Halo.

Our guest, Ed Fries, was the head of Microsoft’s game publishing group when the original Xbox was launched. But as we noted during the show, Bungie Studios was actually working to develop Halo for the Mac before Microsoft acquired the company. Fries then told this behind-the-scenes story.

Bungie was a Macintosh developer — in fact we really made Apple angry when we bought Bungie. I think I can tell this story, but I got a mail, I think, from Steve Ballmer, which was unusual, saying that Steve Jobs was mad because I had bought this company. … Ballmer didn’t really know what the company was, but all he knew was that Jobs was mad about it, and that I should calm him down.

It had a number I had to call, and I called, and sure enough, there’s Steve Jobs. He and I had a brief conversation, and he sent me to someone else, and we worked out a deal, and I ended up being on stage with him and the head of Bungie, announcing a broader deal with Apple to do some porting of games to the Macintosh to make good on this whole deal.

Ed Fries in the KIRO-FM studios

As you can see in the video above, Jobs had been touting Halo as a sign that the Mac was starting to see more good games, so it’s not a surprise that he was pissed.

Given the ultimate significance of Halo to the Xbox business, it’s interesting that Ballmer was apparently caught by surprise, as well. Then again, it was an unproven game at that point, and the franchise ended up being bigger than anyone could have imagined at that point.

After the show, we realized it’s actually not the first time this story has gotten out, but it was the first time we had heard it, and it’s particularly timely in light of recent events.

We had a great time talking to Fries about all sorts of topics, and kept him around for an extended conversation on the podcast after the radio portion of the show ended. Listen to the full interview here.

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