A funny thing happened on the way to the future. Apple ignored Microsoft and trudged along creating one disruptive product after another; Apple Store, iPod, iTunes Music Store, iPhone, iPad, App Stores, Watch. The Mac, once synonymous with Apple Computer, Inc. became the most profitable PC on earth, yet makes up a tiny percentage of the new Apple, Inc. What happened? The future.
Along the way to inventing the future of mobile devices Apple’s once mortal enemy fell asleep and entered the Dark Ages, completely missing the mobile device revolution. Speaking of revolution, that’s what Microsoft did by ousting then CEO Steve Ballmer and replacing him with a guy who has even less hair; but at least newly minted Sataya Nadella has a vision for some kind of future for Microsoft.
That brings me to Microsoft’s roots. Software. After all the tens and tens of billions spent on Bing, Xbox, Skype, and various projects in a failed effort to diversify beyond Office and Windows, Microsoft’s latest attempts to create software that people want to use seems to be working.
Beyond Apple and Google, who makes more major software for iOS than Microsoft? OneNote is particularly good, runs everywhere, and could replace a number of anemic Apple and Google apps. Microsoft Office for Mac (you can get a beta to try out) is the best Office I’ve ever used. Outlook for Mac, iPhone, and iPad is more usable and stable than Apple’s own Mail. The iOS versions are free.
Whether Microsoft’s new cloud centric strategy succeeds in bringing in the revenue and profits to compete with Office and Windows remains to be seen. Apple is a moving target and every technology company with a dog in the hunt is chasing Apple’s tail these days, but it’s Apple that owns the industry’s profits; not Google, not Microsoft, not Samsung.
To paraphrase Steve Jobs and Wayne Gretzky, Microsoft’s challenge is to skate to where the puck will be, not where it is now, not where it was. That’s an enormous challenge with incredible risks; risks Apple was willing to take with OS X, iPod, Apple Stores, iTunes, App Stores, iPhone, iPad, and Watch. Where will the puck be in two years or five years? Apple isn’t standing still so merely skating to where the company is now won’t work.