Co-founder Steve Jobs, on his second coming to Apple, declared the desktop wars over. Microsoft won. The Mac prospered while Apple went on to the next great things. iPod. iTunes. iPhone. iPad. Along the way, Microsoft blundered and slumbered into darkness and totally missed the mobile revolution brought by Apple’s iPhone.
What did Microsoft do? What ever technology company does when it flounders around in a drunk-like state. It went to sleep. Woke up. Cleaned house. Out with the old and inebriated, and in with a more sober business plan. Since the awakening was too late to catch the mobile revolution, Microsoft did what it had to do. Differentiate.
The company doubled down on Windows and launched a different sort of PC, the touchscreen Surface line; something of a notebook tablet hybrid (exception; the desktop Surface Studio). So far, sales have been up and down, but the most recent models tell me Microsoft is in this PC game for the long haul. In fact, the Surface line has more notebook models than the Mac.
Like it or don’t, it’s Microsoft vs. Apple all over again. Though mostly competitive in price on comparably equipped hardware, Mac sales are down, Microsoft Surface PC sales are up. The entire PC industry isn’t doing that well, but touchscreen notebook tablet hybrids are.
Microsoft clearly found itself in a bind. Apple owned the premium end of the desktop and notebook segment, and Google’s Chromebooks were encroaching on the low end. Microsoft did only what it had to do. Differentiate.
A few years ago Apple made Mac OS X upgrades free to Mac customers and since Chrome OS was already free for PC manufacturers, Microsoft had to differentiate again. It still has too many Windows versions, but Microsoft software– Office and other apps– are available on all relevant platforms; Mac and Windows, iOS and Android.
The office where I work has mixed bag of Windows PCs, Macs, a few Chromebooks, and some iPads. We recently added half a dozen of the new Surface Go PCs which are heralded as competition for iPad. Nope. Each one has a keyboard. That’s how they’re used. Inexpensive and lightweight PC notebooks.
Macs may get a touchscreen in the future, but for now most of those notebook tablet hybrid PCs are used as inexpensive PCs.
Still, any money that goes to Microsoft is money that does not go to Apple. Microsoft is back, folks, and that means competition for Apple. It’s Microsoft vs. Apple again.