Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates hasn't spoken much about technology since stepping away from daily duties at the company in 2006. But now back in a bigger role at the firm, Gates is talking more about the industry.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Rolling Stone, Gates opined on everything from Edward Snowden -- "You won't find much admiration from me." -- to the "laughable" idea that America's best days are behind it. (The full interview is well worth a read.)

But he also made an astute comment on the culture differences between Microsoft, Facebook and Apple -- and the founders who shaped them.

"I start with architecture, and Mark [Zuckerberg] starts with products, and Steve Jobs started with aesthetics."

It's a succinct explanation of how each company tends to approach its problems, and a good demonstration of just how much clout a founder's personality can have on a company. Facebook, with Zuckerberg at the helm, is focused on what products do -- explaining the company's penchant for snapping up wholly formed companies, such as WhatsApp or Instagram.

Apple, founded and tightly controlled by the artistic Jobs, cares most about how products look, feel and fit into your everyday life, apparent from the obsessive detail it pays to polish and user experience. Microsoft and Gates -- the self-proclaimed coder who tells Rolling Stone that he likes to be "down in the bowels" of things -- puts the most effort into process and infrastructure.

For better or for worse, that approach is likely to get even stronger as Gates heads back into the daily mix at Microsoft as technology adviser to new Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella.

In an open question-and-answer thread on reddit last month, he said that his role is focused on making "sure we pick ambitious scenarios and that we have a strong architecture to deliver on them."