Microsoft COO Relishes Windows on Mac at Retail Store

Earlier on Monday, I covered an announcement from Microsoft COO Kevin Turner about the company opening 75 more retail stores. While watching the somewhat painful video, I noticed two other tidbits that warranted a mention: The first was a curious stumble at the beginning that I’m going to turn into a mountain, and the second was what struck me as a desperate attempt to find something good for Microsoft in Apple’s ongoing success in retail.

Let’s start with the first thing. If you head over to Microsoft’s World Partner Conference, you’ll find the Day Three keynote presentation. It’s there today, but I’m not sure if it will be there tomorrow, so check it out soon if you’re interested.

In any event, the first 28 minutes of this streaming video is a placeholder slide saying the presentation will begin later. TWENTY EIGHT MINUTES! That’s some fine production quality.

So, fine, skip ahead to the 28 minute mark, and you’ll see a commercial showing how awesome it is to be a Microsoft partner. Two minutes later, a cheesy piano starts playing and a disembodied voice tells us, “Ladies and gentlemen. Please welcome Universal multi-platinum recording artists, The Canadian Tenors!”

ZOMG AND I MISSED IT!? Yeah, the crowd seemed just as excited as me at this news judging from their lack of reaction.

Musical elitism aside, after their performance, Jon Roskill, Microsoft Corporate VP - Worldwide Partner Group, came out on stage and said the following, “Another fantastic ma…uhhh…musical performance…a magical musical performance from The Canadian Tenors. What do you guys think?”

Me? I think it’s a really bizarre choice for opening up a technology keynote, but rock on (or not, as the case may be).

What struck me, though, was the use of “magical” to describe their performance. It’s a weird choice of words. I know I could be reading too much into it, but it really seemed that Mr. Roskill had forgotten that he was supposed to be using the word “magical” in his presentation, and stumbled to make sure he got in. You know, like Apple has been wont to do for the last few years.

It’s not just that he stumbled — public speaking is VERY hard, and Mr. Roskill was otherwise very engaging, much better than his boss, CEO Steve Ballmer, when he speaks — it’s the way he stumbled. It made “magical” seem artificial and forced. It also seems like one of a very, very long line of things that Microsoft has done to follow in Apple’s footsteps, and like all the rest of them, it was hamfisted, clumsy, and seemingly out of place.

OK, let’s move on to the second, less nitty thing I noticed. I was skipping through the stream looking for information on Microsoft’s retail news when I got to a slide of an Apple reseller with Windows running on the Macs.

This came during another portion of the keynote from Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, another very good speaker (honestly). His presentation was all about how Microsoft is better than the competition. Google’s free stuff has hidden costs, money to VMWare is money out of Microsoft Partners’ pockets, and Microsoft can beat Apple in the “Consumerization of IT” (Mr. Turner’s phrase) — that sort of thing.

For instance, did you know that Apple has five platforms? Let’s look at the slide:

Apple's Five Platforms?

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner PowerPoint Slide on Apple’s Five Platforms

This is a fairly accurate look at Apple’s hardware product line, save for the disproportionate portion represented by Apple’s Apple TV “hobby,” but Mr. Turner told us that these are individual platforms.

“They’re a tremendous competitor,” he said. “This is my best description of their ecosystem. They have five different platforms, from the TV, to the iPod touch, to the iPhone, to the iPad, and certainly to their Mac platform. And they run, horizontally, iTunes across that.

He added, “And they have some ecosystem divides within those five platforms. And it’s your guess as good as mine on whether they’ll ever unify those platforms.”

His point is that Microsoft is going to unify its own OSes across X86 and ARM in the future. You know, because that’s somehow desirable. Because you want to have the same OS running your desktop computer as you do your smartphone.

Never mind that iOS was purpose-built as a stripped down version of Mac OS X so that it could be only what it needs to be. Apple didn’t try to shoehorn a one-size-fits-all solution for its different hardware. Apple has had great success with this strategy, but Microsoft sees it as a problem, and one the company can exploit by making it easy for developers to deploy over x86 and ARM with the same software.

Good luck with that.

But what about those five platforms? iPod touch and iPhone are essentially the same thing when it comes to apps, and iPad is a related subset. Apple TV doesn’t (yet) allow third party apps, but when it does, it’s still iOS. And then there’s the Mac.

That’s two platforms, not five, and they’re integrated far more than anything Microsoft has ever, ever, ever, ever done. Ever. So spin away, Mr. Turner, but you’re offering a counter solution to a problem that only you have.

And with that, we finally arrive at the titular point of my piece today. After making up a bunch of pointless crap about Apple’s five platforms, Mr. Turner brought up “a little fun stuff on Apple.”

Turns out that he travels a lot as part of his COOing at Microsoft, and he recently found himself in an unnamed South American country where he spied an Apple reseller who was doing the gosh-darned funniest thing: He was showcasing Windows running on a Mac!

“I was going to a mall to check out retail,” Mr. Turner said to explain why he was stalking an Apple outlet. “And so I go into this mall, and I was shocked to learn that the reseller is selling Windows 7 on the Apple Mac hardware.”

Shocked! Shocked, he was!

He added, “Now Apple has some great hardware. I love that.”

Boy, those South Americans do the darnedest thing! “When you look at it, he’s got it on laptops, he’s got it on desktops, he’s just selling the heck out of it,” Mr. Turner crowed.

While he was saying this, he showed the crowds his proof:

Circles & Arrows

Apple Reseller Showcases Macs Running Windows

In the screenshot above, Mr. Turner circled it for us, in case we missed it. See? It’s the Mac with the Windows logo. Get it?

Even iMacs run Windows!

Even iMacs Run Windows!

His conclusion is that this shows the importance of a great operating system, presumably to sell hardware. “Even the Apple franchise stores think so,” he somehow concluded.

I’ll be the first to admit that we jumped all over the fact that Microsoft was using PowerMac G5 towers to run their Xbox 360 demonstrations at E3 back in 2005. For those of us old enough to remember the Mac vs. Windows platform war, it’s fun when the other guy does something with your product.

But I fail to see how using a MacBook Pro and an iMac to show that Macs can run Windows is somehow proof that Apple’s third party retail partners are saying that Windows is better than Mac OS X. It smacked of sad desperation to find something, anything about Apple’s amazing retail success across the world that could be spun to make Microsoft feel good about itself.

For extra irony, this was the springboard that Mr. Turner used to tell the crowd that Microsoft was going to expand its fleet of retail stores in the U.S., yet another effort by Microsoft to ape Apple.

These definitely aren’t momentous occasions and gaffes by Microsoft that I’m highlighting, but I did think they warranted a mention. As a friend of mine recently told me, however, I tend towards the verbose, and I ask you, gentle reader, to forgive the length of what was intended to be a short, minor mention of Microsoft’s ongoing self-doubt and Apple angst.