Apple pioneered personal computers in the 1980s, and for a while dominated the industry.
When it was subsequently left in the dust by Microsoft, Apple’s downfall was widely attributed to its policy of making computers in their entirety, in contrast to Microsoft’s more enlightened strategy of focusing on the high-value operating system and leaving others to build the cheap low-margin hardware.
Following Steve Jobs’ return to the company, Apple triumphantly bounced back to dominate a brand new category: mobile computing. Its iPhone and iPad devices blazed a trail in a market that is set to be far bigger than the PC market ever was.
But soon Google started doing to Apple what Microsoft had done two decades earlier: outselling it by providing just the operating system (Android) for mobile devices, leaving others to compete to provide the hardware. Like Microsoft before it, Google had little compunction about copying Apple’s designs and ideas.
Meanwhile, Microsoft was left stranded in yesterday’s industry, with its Windows Mobile attempts to break into the new handheld market miserably unsuccessful.
So what has Microsoft done now? In case you haven’t seen the news, it has copied Apple by announcing Surface, its own fully integrated tablet computer — hardware and all.
There’s a pleasing symmetry and circularity to this little dance, but, really, what is Steve Ballmer thinking? As Google re-validates Microsoft’s own strategy and Android phones comprehensively outsell iPhones, does Microsoft really think it can innovate a better hardware platform than Apple? If not, why is it trying?
One thing’s for sure: the Microsoft “teaser” video for Surface is just awful.
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