The Microsoft-Apple Soap Opera

Like a never-ending plotline, Microsoft and Apple have stolen ideas from one another, writting software for one another, and even invested in one another (a few years ago, Apple was in dire straits and Microsoft invested in them to keep them afloat). It’s like a soap opera that goes on and on.

Many, many years ago, Bill Gates warned Apple that they should let go of the hardware and open it up – the same way IBM did – and focus on software and licensing. Apple never did and it’s fate was mostly stagnant and (and often times nearly fatal) for many years. Nevertheless, they continue to design and sell software and hardware as a single experience.

Flash forward to today and you have the spectacular success of the iPod. Walking around Best Buy during the holiday’s, it wasn’t even a race anymore. The mindshare was all gone. If you really loved your girlfriend or boyfriend, you’d buy them nothing but an iPod. Part of the reason for iPod’s success is iTunes and the elegant way Apple masked the often clumsy interplay between software and hardware into a more frictionless experience. So it turns out there was some silver lining in Apple’s decision after all.

This week at CES, Bill Gates unveiled Microsoft’s play into digital entertainment (both music and movies). It’s called Urge and it’s billed as a competitor to iTunes. Gates talks about the benefits of a seamless experience that spans across devices…except iPods.

Microsoft built it’s empire by allowing hardware to get commoditized (for the most part) and leveraging the value of software. Dell’s & HP’s run Microsoft’s operating system and applications. The interaction (via keyboard and mouse) is nearly identical regardless of hardware. But the iPod/iTunes experience is another species. I can’t help but wonder how Microsoft can fight this battle when you have hundreds of devices designed and built by many manufacturers that all behave and interact differently. I don’t think it’s possible for them to compete with a platform that transcends software and hardware (if it isn’t too late to begin with).

And so, Apple’s nearly fatal decision to continue to market both hardware and software years ago is now their weapon in this battle. I’m sure Gates showed some cool things at CES. And I’m sure he shared the stage with some “partners.” And I think that highlights the core question: can you divvy up the experience among a handful of “chefs in the kitchen.” I don’t think so.

3 Comments The Microsoft-Apple Soap Opera

  1. D

    you are incorrect. Apple was not in dire straits and did not need microsoft to invest in them.
    The investment microsoft made was a show of good faith by microsoft in a deal steve jobs and bill gates made. Apple would agree to drop lawsuits against microsoft for infringments and the two would agree to share some patents and technology, and in return, microsoft would continue to produce office and IE for the mac and as a show of support, invest a minor amount of cash.
    Please get your fatc correct before publishing gibberish.

  2. Les Posen

    Fact checking, while the usual domain of first rate journalists, is still an important requirement of bloggers who want visitors to return.
    Your reference to “dire straits” ia yet another part of folklore floating about the internet that needs hammering each time it gets cited, but without citations. This is another of those occasions.
    If you want return visitors – that is, you want to be a trustworthing site worthy of attention, check facts. D is correct, withthe addition of the following:
    “Apple, which ended its third quarter with $1.2 billion in cash, will use the additional $150 million to invest in its core markets of education and creative content, (Apple CFO Fred) Anderson said. He added that the company expects to gain a higher percentage of its revenues from software and services in these core markets in the future.”
    For more, Google: Microsoft invests Apple 1997

  3. Clue Giver

    If you want anyone to take what you say seriously you need to educate yourself instead of regurgitating FUD. If this is all you know, obviously your opinion is worthless. I’m referring to:
    “Microsoft and Apple have stolen ideas from one another” “invested in one another (a few years ago, Apple was in dire straits and Microsoft invested in them to keep them afloat)”
    You later make a few valid points, but they are lost, by showing your obvious prejudice and ignorance in your opening statements.


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