Apple Officially Writes Off Microsoft, Moves Sights to Google

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I wrote off Microsoft long ago. Except the Mac Business Unit - I think Office for Mac is a great product. Seriously, though, under Steve Ballmer's leadership, Microsoft has largely floundered, moving from one blundered catch up project to another.

In a few short years, the company has gone from being a scary-ass giant that seemed certain to drown the tech world in a sea of mediocrity to an embarrassing old uncle with lots of money and dreams of faded glory shambling along in a pantomime of his past accomplishments.

Big Redmond -- and that analogy to IBM and its age of dominance no longer seems as apt as it once did -- is still dominant in PC operating systems, but who cares? The world, including Microsoft, follows what Apple is doing, leaving the company in the driver's seat in the PC world, even with its tiny, but growing, market share.

Microsoft is a bit player in the world of online music downloads and digital media devices, and is increasingly becoming a has-been in smartphones, despite (or maybe because of) having been an early player in that space. The Xbox platform is doing well, though, so rock on there. I think the company may even be close to making back all the money it has spent on that project.

Bing may turn out OK, though I strongly doubt it will unseat Google as the search king. Indeed, I'll be surprised if Bing can become even a strong second to Google in that arena.

And speaking of Google, I found it fascinating yesterday to see this graph from Changewave Research:

Changewave Graph

It's a customer satisfaction graph for smartphone operating systems. In this survey, there are precisely two OS developers with a majority of customers who really like ("Very Satisfied") their smartphones, and those two companies are Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android). RIM's BlackBerry, the platform that was once considered so über-awesome it was colloquially called "CrackBerry," is a distant third behind these two companies with a little more than a third of its customers in love with their devices.

And RIM is a smart company with lightyears more vision than Microsoft (shockingly dead last on this graph), and the best they can do is 41%?

That graph is a telling one in that it demonstrates that Google is a company, like Apple, capable of making products that people like. Like Apple (post-Steve's return), Google has had very few public missteps, and the products that see the light of day tend to be a hit with users. From Google.com to AdWords and AdSense, to Gmail, to Android, the company makes products (and services) that don't suck.

It's one of the reasons that Google CEO Eric Schmidt was (until recently) on Apple's board of directors, and one of the reasons Arthur Levinson sits on both company's boards. Steve Jobs and Mr. Schmidt respected each other and their respective visions, and both companies were seemingly fighting Microsoft in their respective markets.

Now, however, Google and Apple have some overlapping areas of competition. They both have browsers, they both have operating systems for computers, and they both have a smartphone operating system. I personally thought that it was only these areas of overlapping competition that lead to Mr. Schmidt resigning from Apple's board, but the Quattro purchase has made me rethink that notion.

If Apple is going to enter the market for mobile ads -- a move that I find curious, at best -- it suggests to me that Apple sees Google as its main competition going forward. It may have something to do with the unannounced tablet device, or it may be all about the iPhone, but with this purchase, Apple is saying it intends to be a player in the market that Google's Mr. Schmidt has publicly identified as the biggest ad market of the future.

And in doing so, Apple is signalling that Google is the competition, and not just in the smartphone OS market where Windows Mobile was never the target for Apple, but in the bigger picture.

I personally always liked the idea of an alliance between Apple and Google, two companies for whom mediocrity was never acceptable, but that was only because of the threat from Microsoft. Now, however, I'm thinking that competition between those two companies as leaders could be even more exciting as the two tech giants force the rest of the market to push for their own excellence.

If only Google believed in a Whole Widget approach, then we'd really have a great horse race.

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Comments

Apple iSlate

We seen Microsoft on our iSlate.org site pretty often so their keeping an eye on Apple alright.

CP

“an embarrassing old uncle with lots of money and dreams of faded glory shambling along in a pantomime of his past accomplishments.”

Brilliant, Bryan. Kudos.

geoduck

We seen Microsoft on our iSlate.org site pretty often so their keeping an eye on Apple alright.

I think I just got a grammar sprain

davebarnes

Time for Arthur Levinson to pick one.

Lee Dronick

?an embarrassing old uncle with lots of money and dreams of faded glory shambling along in a pantomime of his past accomplishments.?

I could take that personally, if I had a lot of money smile

“Seriously, though, under Steve Ballmer’s leadership, Microsoft has largely floundered, moving from one blundered catch up project to another.”

I wonder how much longer that he will be CEO.

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks, CP—and Geoduck, you cracked me up. smile

geoduck

I wonder how much longer that he will be CEO

The real question is who, if anyone would want to replace Balmer. I think more people want to run GM than MS. There doesn’t seem to be a line of people jockeying for position to sit in the captains chair on the Titanic.

Lee Dronick

The real question is who, if anyone would want to replace Balmer. I think more people want to run GM than MS. There doesn?t seem to be a line of people jockeying for position to sit in the captains chair on the Titanic.

What is Spindler up to, or perhaps Scully? smile

geoduck

The trouble with MS is that it’s got too many irons in the fire. Too many projects that aren’t doing well enough to make money but are distracting attention from the core business, and have highly placed patrons that won’t let them get cut.

What MS needs is a Gil Amelio. Someone that would weald a savage ax on the dead wood, prune the MS structure down to the bare essentials and not care if anyone liked him or not. Then after a year or two he would walk out the door (with a hefty severance package) and let someone come in that could run the company.

Not that I’m volunteering or anything.

gslusher

Someone that would weald a savage ax on the dead wood

Read that bit again, carefully. Maybe the grammar sprain caused collateral damage to the spelling module. <GG> Of course, it would also be better if “that” were replaced by “who.”

geoduck

geoduck said:Someone that would weald a savage ax on the dead wood
Read that bit again, carefully. Maybe the grammar sprain caused collateral damage to the spelling module. <GG>

You’re right, it should be wield.
I hate homonyms.

Lee Dronick

Well you would use an axe on a weald, a forest, and MicroSoft is full dead wood. smile

MyRightEye

I think I just got a grammar sprain

You should try reading MacNN!

iBill

I thought Arthur Levinson already resigned from Google’s board.

Someone

For all the Ballmer blaming boys, let’s see how apple fares after S Jobs is gone. Also, discount a competitor like MS at your own peril. They still make the billions required to unseat any other company - a few good products and they will be at the throats of all the apple “bankrupt revived by Microsoft” fellas. Accept it, u owe MS a life

Laurie Fleming

No-one is discounting Microsoft completely - but it is less relevant than before.

And (except for SQL Server, which is very good, even if it is Sybase in drag), Microsoft has arguably never made any good products. It makes “good enough” products. It’s been sufficient up to now. But in the next ten years?

csimmons

“For all the Ballmer blaming boys, let?s see how apple fares after S Jobs is gone.”

Well, Steve Jobs is not gone yet, and even if he were to go soon, there are plenty of capable people at Apple who could take his place. Remember SJ’s leave of absence between January and June? Tim Cook and Phil Schiller did a great job of running Apple while Jobs was away (Tim Cook is the one who actually runs Apple’s daily operations anyway). Scott Forstall is the logical successor to Jobs on the tech side and Jonathan Ive isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Apple will just fine when Steve is gone; can you say the same about MS?

Probably not.

Lee Dronick

For all the Ballmer blaming boys, let?s see how apple fares after S Jobs is gone. Also, discount a competitor like MS at your own peril. They still make the billions required to unseat any other company - a few good products and they will be at the throats of all the apple ?bankrupt revived by Microsoft? fellas. Accept it, u owe MS a life

Talk about getting a grammar sprain.

electric_jhheesuss

Uhh, where’s Nokia on that list of mobile devices?  You know, that little company with half or more of the worldwide smartphone market?

Give the QT platform a couple of years for developers to get familiar with and the relatively free OS will be better still.

Windows Mobile is not dead yet.

Lee Dronick

Give the QT platform a couple of years for developers to get familiar with and the relatively free OS will be better still.

A few years is a life time.

geoduck

Windows Mobile is not dead yet.

Any second now I expect John Cleese to say “You’re not fooling anyone”.
smile

Lancashire-Witch

Uhh, where?s Nokia on that list of mobile devices??

Since the table lists Operating Systems maybe that should be “Where’s Symbian?”

I guess the answer is - it’s not there because the table is about customer satisfaction not market share.

James

I love the doddering uncle image too. smile

It really is amazing how in spite of their continued ubiquity, Microsoft becomes more and more irrelevant with every passing year. I actually think that as we delve ever more deeply into user experiences being the driving force behind advances in tech, Apple will be just fine with new blood at the helm. It’ll be beneficial to have leaders there who are actually immersed in the stuff that they’re making.

That’s part of the problem with Ballmer, IMHO. I honestly don’t believe he or anyone on his board actually uses any of this stuff themselves. Nothing that they create is informed by first had experience.

Photodan

The trouble with MS is that it?s got too many irons in the fire. Too many projects that aren?t doing well enough to make money but are distracting attention from the core business

It seems that Google is following MS down that very path. I wonder if it will fare any better.

someone

No-one is discounting Microsoft completely - but it is less relevant than before.
And (except for SQL Server, which is very good, even if it is Sybase in drag), Microsoft has arguably never made any good products. It makes ?good enough? products. It?s been sufficient up to now. But in the next ten years?

Lets see how “less relevant” Microsoft has become in the last 10 years:
1. It still enjoys 94% control on the computer OS industry.
2. Office - close to 100% including in Macs
3. Has a clear leadership in the gaming industry - Xbox and Live
4. Has a 30% search market share (now including Yahoo).
5. 500 million hotmail/messenger users
6. Has tripled from ~20 billion to ~67billion since 2000

As for the “good enough” part, ever heard of the Zune HD - beats the crap outta every ipod, not to mention Win 7, etc. Oh, and wait till Win Mobile 7 with Xbox live integration comes up..and.. Courier tablet.

Lee Dronick

As for the ?good enough? part, ever heard of the Zune HD

I remember hearing something about that product a few years ago. Is it still for sale? All of the shopping activity seems to be around the iPod displays, maybe I should look for a Zune in Big Lots! or The Dollar Store.

Laurie Fleming

Hmm - I smell an ignorant troll. You use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp-post: not for illumination but for support. Zune HD beats the crap out of the iPod - I don’t expect you’ll be able to substantiate that.

What are you doing here? You don’t come here just for the hunting, do you?

Bryan Chaffin

Someone, you sound as defensive as many Mac fans did when Apple was seen as being on the ropes.  That’s fascinating, to me, and awesome anecdotal evidence supporting the point you’re here to dispute.

someone

That?s fascinating, to me, and awesome anecdotal evidence supporting the point you?re here to dispute.

If thats the case, why dont you define what u and the others here mean by “less relevant”?

Laurie Fleming

It’s been well defined. Go back and read Bryan’s article. And all the comments following.

Bryan Chaffin

Yeah, I spent a few score words doing just that.

Also, I should stress that I wasn’t attacking you with my post. It was just a startling revelation to see how closely your posts here today mirror many a post from many a Mac fan of, say, 8-11 years ago in the face of Apple critics trying to write the company off.

toomuch

It?s been well defined. Go back and read Bryan?s article. And all the comments following.

Laurie mentioned it, just like she metioned how SQL server is the best MS product. ROFL. You guys have ur heards so burried in apple sands u dont know the world around. praising apple i understand, but berating another company with all the the wrong facts in another. The person who mentioned the following stats did a decent job. Tell me how can u have such a market share without good products?
What will people use in the enterprise - iPhones or crazy expensive macs?

To add to the list, Exchange has been licenced even by Apple and S Jobs calls it a great product (when convenient of course)..
Good stuff “someone”:

Lets see how ?less relevant? Microsoft has become in the last 10 years:
1. It still enjoys 94% control on the computer OS industry.
2. Office - close to 100% including in Macs
3. Has a clear leadership in the gaming industry - Xbox and Live
4. Has a 30% search market share (now including Yahoo).
5. 500 million hotmail/messenger users
6. Has tripled from ~20 billion to ~67billion since 2000

Laurie Fleming

Oy - I am not a “she”. It just shows how ignorant you are. You assume far too much.

You major mistake is that you mistake quantity for quality.

And learn how to spell and use grammar properly. It doesn’t do you (lack of) argument any favours.

toomuch

You major mistake is that you mistake quantity for quality.

Ok, fine. Tell me what is lacking in quality in each of the following products and tell me how is apple doing the same with ur notion of “quality”, and lets be honest. ok?:

Windows 7
Zune HD
Exchange server 2010
Office 2010
Xbox 360 and Xbox Live

Laurie Fleming

It’s “your”, not “ur”. It’s “let’s”, not “lets”.

Windows 7 - fine. But huge. Very difficult to upgrade from Vista (which was a mistake). Nigh on impossible to upgrade from XP, still largely used.

Exchange server - fine. Not great. But fine.

Office - bloated; Excel is not a great spreadsheet. A functional one, but certainly not great, or innovative; Access is OK if you want to catalogue your tie collection, but has an appalling user interface and bad structure (and I’m a database developer, so I know what I am talking about); Word - where do I start? It’s the most used, but that doesn’t qualify it as being great.

Xbox 360 - shrug. Why would I replace my Playstation for one?

I suggest you go read Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The theme through the whole book is one of quality and how to define it. He came up with “Quality is just what you like.” Revising it, he took “just” out.

If you like Microsoft products, and you’ve tried the alternatives and gone back to Microsoft, good on you. You’re happy. I have tried many different IT products over the last 35 years, and I use Microsoft when I have to. But it doesn’t cause me any pleasure.

fo

Well, “someone,” a “few good products” seems to be an impossible order for MS to fill. If that’s what it will take for MS to be relevent again, then they truly are in trouble.

As for MS “reviving” Apple, it never happened (nor was Apple even close to bankruptcy, with $4B in the bank). It’s well known and documented that the $150 million that MS invested was more of a settlement than a rescue effort. And it was barely a drop in the bucket at the time… not nearly significant enough to “revive” Apple. But I suppose that as MS fails, it’s minions and fanboys will spout all sorts of lies in vain remembrance of a past greatness that never was.

Dean Lewis

The New York Times wrote back in 1991:

“DOS Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq, Tandy, and millions of others are by far the most popular, with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans, on the other hand, may note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans, and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form.”

Update the device and company names and you can say the same thing today: Just because Microsoft is everywhere, doesn’t mean it’s great. Sadly, “good enough” has been the norm for most shoppers for several decades now.

someone

Windows 7 - fine. But huge. Very difficult to upgrade from Vista (which was a mistake). Nigh on impossible to upgrade from XP, still largely used.
Exchange server - fine. Not great. But fine.
Office - bloated; Excel is not a great spreadsheet. A functional one, but certainly not great, or innovative; Access is OK if you want to catalogue your tie collection, but has an appalling user interface and bad structure (and I?m a database developer, so I know what I am talking about); Word - where do I start? It?s the most used, but that doesn?t qualify it as being great.
Xbox 360 - shrug. Why would I replace my Playstation for one?

On Windows 7 - I asked you to talk about Win 7, not “your” usual rant with Vista an XP. Mac OSX has often not even supported backward compat, like I said blame for the heck of it.

Xbox 360 and why would you quit on PS3 - Ever heard of Xbox Live? (Sony is playing cathup here clearly and Project Natal will keep the trend on for a few more years, not to mention Facebook, Twitter and Netflix integration - may be you never use these. Good for you).

Exchange Server - what a lame comment “Fine, not great, fine” - that’s the best you could come up with when Apple has integrated Active Sync right into OSX and pays Exchange a royalty?

Office - Microsoft supports the MAC platform with Office and the fact is there is no better alternative that surpases even the MAC share of office, forget the Windows platform.

Access - What sort of a Database developer that you claim you are will base his comments on Access (a mere front end for DB systems) to judge while pretending like SQL Server never existed. SQL Server is probably the only service getting a cloud component in Azure.

It’s not enough to correct people’s spelling and act knowledgeable. Grow up kid, too much cool-aid for you.

Laurie Fleming

I can’t help you if you can’t read. Look at my last comment about quality. It’s what you like.

“My usual rant?” What the firetruck are you talking about? Windows 7 is a great improvement on its predecessors - but it is virtually only for initial installations, not upgrades. What do you mean about Mac OS X not supporting backing compatibility? Largely it has, and I’m running OS X (10.5) on a ten-year-old Mac.

I have heard of Xbox Live. So? It’s not to my taste. What’s your point?

Office is fine. It’s too big, but as far as I’m concerned it’s overly complicated and it’s not innovative. There is no better alternative? Says who?

Look back on what I said before. I do like SQL Server. It’s a good solid product. I prefer Sybase, which it shares its underpinnings (although Sybase IQ is a different kettle of fish). What is relevant about SQL Server being part of Azure? Why does that make it good? I don’t have any (business) use of cloud services, so to me that statement is completely relevant. As an aside, Azure is a Microsoft product, so it’s not surprising, considering its long-standing monopolistic practices, that SQL Server should be the only service.

Access is hugely used, almost invariantly incorrectly, as part of large organisations’ data processing and reporting systems. It can be used as a front end, but the interface is so unintuitive, it makes it very hard to use. I’ve seen good Access front ends, but they are rare.

I will correct spelling. I will act knowledgeable about things I understand. And I’m not a kid.

someone

It?s well known and documented that the $150 million that MS invested was more of a settlement than a rescue effort.

It was not about the money - it was a commitment from MS to build Office and IE for Mac to keep the Mac platform alive. Steve Jobs is not the type of person who will tie up with MS for nothing. It was to save the Mac platform.

Laurie Fleming

Are you the same “Someone” who previously posted? Or another one? Your ignorance and lack of historical knowledge is palpable.

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