Why We Love Apple and Why Microsoft Does Wacky Things That Make us Sigh

Benjamin Disraeli said that the secret to success is constancy of purpose. That sounds easy at first until one is cast in a business environment where technology changes fast, there are serious conflicts between VPs and troublesome questions are raised by investors and the press.

"Here's to the cracy ones..." (Author's archive)

Often, constancy of purpose can come across as arrogance. It's all too easy to confuse the constant dedication to a sound principle by someone with the arrogance of believing that an opinion is more valid than the opinions of others. It's a shame that confusion like that occurs.

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. -- Henry Ford

Apple is very good at constancy of purpose. The corporate culture dwells deep in the psyche of every Apple employee, and the marketing communications department makes sure that Apple's philosophy and spirt of making only the best are maintained with constancy. In turn, the industrial design of products, as we know it from Jony Ive, instantiates the corporate mantra of simplicity, taste, elegance and class. Again, with constancy.

As a result, Apple has been richly rewarded by enthusiastic customers.

When companies depart from laudable principles, they can get into trouble. When everything revolves around simply making money and the decision of the moment caters to nothing else, there will be trouble. This is why we admire Tim Cook when he gets angry defending a principle. In previous times, Steve Ballmer merely shouted.

For the rudderless, the world seems cruel and buffeting. And when a company, like Microsoft, tries to cash in on loyalty that it thought it had, it finds that thanks to its own vagaries of principles, driven only by expediency, it just isn't there. For example, "Microsoft misjudges customer loyalty with kill-XP plea."

With that theme on my mind, I've been reading more and more by Ken Segall ever since I discovered him in Leander Kahney's book about Jony Ive. "Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products." This week, Mr. Segall writes about: "Microsoft vs. Apple: the strategy gap." This article, while a bit lengthy, goes a long way towards explaining why we love Apple and why Microsoft does really wacky things that just make us sigh.

The juxtaposition of Microsoft's silly Windows XP misadventure and Apple's overall strategy explained by Mr. Segall are the clearest and most contrasting evidence yet of why Apple is on the rise and Microsoft is on the wane in mobility.

There's much, much more on this theme in the Tech News Debris that follows on page 2.

Tech News Debris for the Week of March 3

For those keeping score, Daniel Eran Dilger recounts the companies Apple has purchased recently. But some remain a mystery because, of course, the identity and focus of a company can reveal technologies Apple is keenly interested in. See: "Why Apple, Inc. is keeping the identity of many of its 23 recent acquisitions a secret."

The next article has some interesting tablet numbers. "Gartner: 195M Tablets Sold In 2013, Android Grabs Top Spot From iPad With 62% Share." For starters, Android is an OS used by many companies, but only Apple sells iOS. So when it's convenient to overlook the health of any one company selling Android tablets, a company like Gartner will lump them all together.

Even so, the author, Ms. Lunden, gracefully points out that Apple leads all individual tablet vendors with a 36 percent market share. Samsung is second with a 19 percent share.

Another interesting number is that Amazon isn't doing all that well, and Kindle Fire market share has dropped from 6.6 percent in 2012 to 4.8 percent in 2013.

Finally, Table 1 shows the sales of Microsoft's Surface series. Even though the company did a lot better in its first full year of sales, 2013, the market share remains a paltry 2.1 percent.

Plenty of time to catch up?  Likely not.

For several years now I've been of the opinion that Microsoft failed to recognize the impact of the original tablet and didn't respond quickly enough. That view has been vindicated in a recent interview with Steve Ballmer. "Ballmer regrets not aping Apple sooner."

In light of all that, when it does make sense to look at aggregate numbers is when one is evaluating the whole platform, like Android, instead of the health of individual vendors. In that case, this next chart shows how enormously difficult it is to come from behind once a platform becomes entrenched in the market. In this case, the chart refers to smartphones, but the logic is the same. "There's No Hope Anyone Will Be Able To Beat Android This Year."

The chart in the article shows that, like the Surface, Windows Phone had about 3 percent market share in 2013 with an estimate of 3.9 percent for 2014. How Microsoft got so far behind with both Surface and Windows Phone will be interesting reading if someone like Leander Kahney ever sits down with Steve Ballmer for a week and writes the sorrowful story. Of course it all started with this.

Finally, on this theme, I have written elsewhere that product innovation isn't simply the inspired genius of a single person, like you see on TV. Often there are false starts and yelling in the hallways. So it is as well with mergers and acquisitions. Here's a fascinating behind-the-scenes story. "Steve Ballmer at war with board during final months at Microsoft."

Moving on ....

"It seems we’re all getting sick of the noise." So says Hugh MacLeod in his essay, "The Internet is ready for a new cultural shift." The author is half-predicting, half-hoping for a backlash, a rebellion against the noise and Internet malaise. "A new quiet as it were."

Personally, I think the Internet will just keep getting bigger and noisier. It's up to us to make our own quiet.

This week we heard a lot about Snow Leopard and the presumed termination by Apple in terms of support for security updates. The real facts of the situation are explained nicely by Gene Steinberg in "The Snow Leopard Fear Mongering Report."

As to why there are still many Snow Leopard users, there are several reasons. First, it has support for PowerPC apps. Second, it was the zenith of the Great-GUI-on-UNIX operating system without the, ah, interesting initiatives introduced by Apple in OS X Lion. But Jonny Evans explains that there's yet another reason for Snow Leopard's popularity. I'll let him explain. " Why Mac users still use OS X Snow Leopard."

Finally, Mike Wehner asks:  how do you stop an alien invasion with a PowerBook 5300 with its 100 MHz processor and 64 MB of RAM? It seemed qualified for suspension of disbelief back in 1996. But now? It's more than laughable. This article brings us to brimming with perspective about the affairs of humans and, even, the best technology that Apple has to offer.

For today, anyway.


Fellow contemplating via Shutterstock. Surface tablet via Microsoft.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.