is innovative. Microsoft isn’t.
A statement that has been uttered throughout the history of these two tech giants. And it has been true for the most part too! It was considered true when Microsoft was a Goliath to Apple’s David in the late 90s. It became an axiom during the iPhone and iPad era as Apple became successful in the mobile space while Microsoft floundered with its Windows Mobile and then Windows Phone devices.
The antitrust lawsuits, the failure of Windows Vista, a little success with Windows 7 followed by yet another damp squib in Windows 8 compounded Microsoft’s woes as it lost its crown. Vanity Fair went on to document Microsoft’s Lost Decade and that sparked even more discussion on how the company lost its mojo under Steve Ballmer while Apple was reinventing itself aided by its visionary CEO Steve Jobs.
Fast forward to today.
Over the past few years, under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has transformed into something we’d never thought it could. It’s still a big corporation but now it is nimble, ambitious and more developer-friendly than it ever was! It isn’t afraid to take risks as demonstrated by its gambles on the Surface-line of tablets, laptops and now desktops. These were path-breaking products with a vision that went beyond selling hardware. You need only look at the number of Surface clones and sleek ultrabooks out there to see the results of Microsoft’s gamble.
The new Microsoft isn’t above admitting to mistakes as we saw with the write-off of the Nokia acquisition. It is more collaborative, making friends out of erstwhile enemies such as Linux and Apple. It is more focused on its core competency – software, just look at the number of Microsoft apps for Android and iOS! Windows 10, its latest operating system, is an unquestioned success, thanks to the free upgrade offer, and is gaining more and more momentum with the Creators Edition. Microsoft today is more forward-thinking than it ever was, its HoloLens is galvanizing the VR and AR industries.
Meanwhile, Apple hasn’t released a single revolutionary product since the iPhone and Macbook Air. Sure, it has consistently improved its iPhones and Macbooks. The iPad was an overblown version of the iPhone that never replaced PCs as it was expected to due to its limitations. I loved the design of the Mac Pro but that was the only great thing about it. And the less I say about the new Macbook and the latest Macbook Pro, the better.
Diminishing Returns on Marketing
Apple has what is considered one of the best marketing machines in the world. Its catchphrase – “thinner, lighter, faster” has now become a mockery. How thin can you make a laptop without compromises? As we saw with the Macbook, you can make it so thin that you start buying dongles for everything. Removing the heaphone jack from the latest iPhones is courageous but the same courage doesn’t extend to removing it from the latest Macbook Pro.
A thin OLED touch bar doesn’t change computing as we know it – though Apple’s fanboys continue to say it does. Every improvement that Apple makes to its devices now seems like a ‘reaction’ to competition rather than an ‘innovation’ that it is marketed as.
A few things from the past year…
The Surface Studio is unlike anything we’ve seen before! The Surface Dial is aimed squarely at creatives, something that is considered Apple’s domain.
There is lot of excitement around Windows 10 and its upcoming updates. New Windows laptops and convertibles are being launched every few months and some of them like the XPS 13 and HP Spectre are amazingly good.
With the Windows 10 Creators Edition, consumers can become content producers and creative artists! Lenovo just showed off a VR headset at CES 2017 that will work with Windows 10 PCs! This is tech that exists and works now, not a concept video for a far-off future. Qualcomm is talking up Windows 10 support on the Snapdragon 835 – which will give birth to thinner and lighter devices that do more.
The only area Microsoft isn’t active in right now seems to be smartphones, and even there, Apple is slowly losing ground to Android. And while Apple and Google duke it out, Microsoft is quietly churning out amazing apps for both ecosystems!
Tech that makes you go “Wow!”
Windows, Office, Outlook.com, OneDrive, Skype, Surface, HoloLens, Cortana, Continuum – every Microsoft offering shows a unified vision, provides a consistent, user-friendly experience and some of them like HoloLens make you go ‘wow’. Contrast that with Apple’s insistence on keeping iOS and Mac OS separate, never mind the hand-offs. Its software is as good as ever but doesn’t justify the “World’s Most Advanced” tag anymore. Its hardware is as dependable as ever but the its design sense seems to have taken a hike. The Smart Battery Case for the iPhone, need for Dongle Hubs on the Macbook, the Touch Bar placement on the latest Macbook Pro are just a few recent design fails in my opinion.
Perhaps the best example of how times have changed… Show people a new Surface Book and they think it is unconventional and exciting. Show them the new Macbook and out comes the question, “Where did all the ports go?”
What do you think? Do you agree that Microsoft is beating Apple at innovation?