Apple and Microsoft: Computing Battle

If we were to take Apple SVP, Phil Shiller’s words from 22 October 2013 keynote event, ‘here is the line-up for the holiday quarter…’, Apple is unlikely to announce anymore products for 2013. Apple shares swung hard and fast in last fourteen months, especially since the introduction of iPhone 5. Of course most financial intuitions do have exposure to Apple stocks while it’s a fashion to talk about/advice to AAPL as to how to run their business. I wonder if most analysts can at least run a petty shop on their own before they teach business to billion dollar companies like MSFT or AAPL. I talked about everything that was right with iPhone 5s and 5c even though whole media industry unanimously tried to tarnish Apple. Meanwhile, Microsoft decided to go Apple way – purchased Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia. Microsoft will have its new CEO in coming months to start a new era. Nine months into indigenous hardware business, Microsoft wrote down $900 million for Surface RT. Surface Pro did not do that bad and Microsoft stuck to iterative upgrades to both Surface tablets, namely Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. October 22 was one of the biggest product launch day for Apple, while on the same day Surface line-up was out for sale and Nokia announced about six new devices, ranging from Asha series to Lumia phablets and tablets.

Apple’s keynote event for 2013 fall was expected to steal lime-light and it did so in a very big way. In fact, I would like to call it a worst day for Microsoft since iPhone and iPad launch days. There are plenty of reasons to cheer if you are an Apple customer or a loyalist as a whole. New Mac Pro told the world that, Apple still thinks there are real pro users and Apple intends to take the computing to next level. By all means, Mac Pro is a super personal computer that anyone heard of. Reduced price for MacBook Pro with Retina Display line-up was just an indirect announcement of changing time, so also the technology industry as a whole. OS X (10.9) Mavericks is clearly the most advanceddesktop operating system with some of the extraordinary features that has ever been shipped. Extensive reviewstricks and tips are already in, from a few of the incredible sources. Best part is, the whole OS upgrade is free and is available at a single click. Apple announced that, iPad line-up is available now in various price points to cater to different customer needs. 64-bit architecture, Motion Coprocessor, Retina Display, Fastest Data transfers, etc. are becoming a norm. iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display are technically identical except the display size which means consumer will not feel performance difference irrespective of screen size chosen. In addition, there were updates for iLife and iWork which are now free over new device purchase.

Switching to Microsoft’s latest effort on saving PC industry, the reviewed and revived Windows 8.1 showed up with an upgrade price tag of $119.99 while price tag shoots up to $199.99 for Pro version. Problem is, Microsoft nearly assumed that, there aren’t any personal system built computers. So as I write this, Microsoft is yet to make Windows 8 system builder licenses available. So once you bought Windows 8, you still do not have Office suits or iLife quality suites. Yet Microsoft claims that MS Office is the most needed application for any computing device user. MSFT is also in its own Reality Distortion Field when it comes to Office suite. I have been using MS Office actively for about eight years now. However, for simple home and small business requirements tailor-made apps are more handy. For a moderate user, iWork is decent enough. The new collaboration features and this years updates are great, but the biggest news is they are coming free. If someone really wants to write Visual Basic and scripting, he can buy Microsoft Office suite.

Let us talk about the customers for iWork or MS Office suite. I have been working for six years and I never wanted to do VBA at home. If I were to run a small business, I would require simple calculation and charting functions which are available in Apple ecosystem. Even if I have to run specialised mathematical or statistical tool I can always bank upon softwares like RSAS or S-Plus. Ever since introduction of iPhone and iPad, Microsoft has been thoroughly confused. They have been good at striking deals with enterprises but they did not understand individual users. They think that still think that, everyone on this planet can be productive only by using MS Office. Instead, Apple thinks in terms of empowering users and developers. Bloomberg, SAP, FacSet data analytics are available on iPad because these companies realised, work environment is changing. Spreadsheets are reduced to data presentation tools rather than holding millions of calculation formulae. Every possible computation is done in cloud and presented in spreadsheets. Most data analytics are carried out by Big Data handlers and the user simply needs to make decisions from readily interpreted data. This is the simple reason why MS Access is hardly found presence even in enterprises. iLife suite in Apple ecosystem is available just out of the box too. And the good news is, if you do not want just ignore to set them up to avoid clutter.

If Microsoft considered themselves a software company, then they should have come up with touch optimised MS Office by 2009 on iPhone and 2011 on iPad. Last year Apple removed YouTube and Google Maps, but Google re-submitted the apps and everyone uses ‘em. In fact, Google services are better on iOS than Android (except for Google Now)! Even if Winodws phones and tablets were to be there, what is Microsoft’s problem not to have their services fully available on iOS? Just like Apple’s map against Google Map, Microsoft cannot compete with Apple in hardware software integration. Just to remind ourselves, Google’s Motorola posted $248 million loss  in Q32013 and they’re yet to show profits. Why would an individual/small business chose Windows ecosystem if they can understand, every year OS upgrades are free and hardware line-up is most reliable out there. Apple’s Mac line-up received best customer satisfaction score for a decade now and latest review confirms that. If Microsoft were to be productivity leader, why Windows 8 did not sell well? Because of iPad and smartphones? Probably yes but also because of unreliable hardware from OEMs. So if Microsoft was quick to grab the opportunity, they would have made millions of dollars from iOS device app sales itself. iOS devices have one of the best anti-piracy measures! Of course MSFT is the market leaders with some of the deals struck in late 1980s through 1990s. But the problem is, they simply are failing to strike the right partnership. Unavailability of Google Services is the key reasonwhy Windows Phone sales are minimal. Unless Lumia range succeeds, Microsoft will be in danger of getting back to the era of early 1980s when they’re struggling to sell BASIC, COBOL and FORTRAN. Apple’s formula for success is simple: reliable hardware, fully integrated with OS ecosystem empowering developers to succeed. Mind you, Google has an altogether a different business model, Microsoft needs realise where they want to focus. Microsoft will not be doomed but they will be alarmingly less relavant.