Apple and Microsoft: The Saga Continues
I’ve bee a regular Internet writer about Apple since soon after the release of Windows 95 and the early days of the great Apple Computer corporate implosion. Contrary to public opinion, I don’t believe Apple lost its market and almost its business on the economic battlefield.
Rather, IMHO, Apple handed its market and its customers to Microsoft and others on a gold-plated platter. It delivered its business to the company’s competitors similar to the way hotel staff deliver room service orders to guests at a 5-star resort. The spectacular and well-documented missteps of Apple’s management compelled the company to be a no-show at the great PC party of the mid-to-late 90’s.
Please note: I am not a fan of Microsoft. Over the years I have been a harsh critic of the company, it practices and often times its products. Admittedly, it was tough to digest the fact that for a while following the 1997 agreement between Apple and Microsoft that Microsoft was Apple’s largest shareholder.
Sure, Microsoft exploited a minor clause in an Apple contract to copy some of the look and feel of the Mac OS. But Apple’s problems were of its own making. No matter one’s chosen side in the Mac v. Windows religious war, few veteran Silicon Valley executives want to see Apple disappear from the PC landscape. There’s too much history and too much lore. Apple was the archetype of the Silicon Valley IPO and a major co-developer of the concept of the home and school PC.
What had beguiled many computer industry executives for close to a decade was an apparent lack of a discernable Apple business plan or discernable approach to the market. One can’t partner with a company if that company can’t figure out what business they are in what way they will bring new products to potential users. Apple executives acted like medieval nobles, squabbling constantly with one other as to who should be king. They even squabbled away the historic opportunities afforded by the Apple-IBM-Motorola PowerPC partnership. While gilding the front doors with gold, Apple executives left the back door open for the PC invaders. Many loyal Mac developers were forced to stand-alone against the PC hordes or abandon the platform.
It’s ironic that after a decade of missteps and missed opportunities it was the return of Apple’s mercurial co-founder that finally put the company under adult supervision. It’s taken Steve Jobs and his highly competent management team five years (and all the moral authority inherent in being the company’s co-founder) to return Apple Computer to a position in which it can effectively compete in the highly charged PC business.
In an interesting interview on NewsFactor, the head of Microsoft’s Mac business unit discusses the relationship between the two companies.
Like Microsoft, hate Microsoft, whatever. At least the behemoth in Redmond is finally finding in Apple a company that is now not only a fierce competitor, but also a company with a discernable business plan with which it can partner.
IMHO opinion, Apple will soon be besting Microsoft and its PC box makers in skirmishes for lucrative market share. Playing dead may work for opossums, but the same tactic used by Apple executives for the better part of a decade certainly didn’t win the company any respect.
There may always be an underlying ambivalence between Apple and Microsoft, and between Mac users and Windows users. The friction between the two camps may flame red hot in the months to come. Apple is battling hard to reestablish itself as a solid leader in PC technology development and product innovation. The Mac is back and here to stay.
For the first time in several years, developing and releasing Mac OS-based applications and solutions makes economic sense for developers. Apple has regained its critical mass and each day gains new users. Ignoring the Mac market now means the potential for lost sales for software developers and a free ride for their competitors.
Five years after the return of Steve Jobs, the installation of a new management team and years of very hard work on the part of Apple employees, the company has a new message for PC software developers: Take a first-class seat on our innovation bullet train or we’ll reserve a seat with a view for your competitors.
It appears that the Microsoft executives in charge of the Mac business unit are smart enough to ante up for the ride.
According to the head of Microsoft’s Macintosh unit, the company will continue to develop Mac OS X software following the expiration of the five-year agreement between the two companies. The agreement is set to expire this summer.
Microsoft will continue to develop Macintosh software as long as it makes business sense and provides an attractive return to the software maker.
WOW! That was one of the best pieces I have ever read describing Apple/Microsoft relationship. I would like to add that Apple was probably doomed when Microsoft started requiring their box makers to pay for DOS (yes DOS) even if they shipped another OS. But bad management was at the heart. Apple could have dominated all of the buzz markets if they had not been so bleeding edge. The PDA, interactive TV (partnered with Oracle and BT), the computer/game machine (PiPIN), and digital photography all were invented at Apple. A thought popped into my mind reading your post: has Apple turned into the Xerox PARC of modern times? I mean, they really are the R&D for the consumer computing industry. Just a thought…
The next round has begun. Please see today’s TMO coverage of Microsoft’s comments about the sales rate of Office for X and Apple’s response.