Apple vs Microsoft, Mac vs PC and now Surface Studio vs MacBook Pro announcement: the battle between two of tech’s greatest titans is raging stronger than thanks to recent events and it’s actually an exciting development. Competition between big tech companies is only good for consumers and the competition is growing more fierce, but perhaps not equally so.
For years Apple’s products have collectively been thought of as the epitome of innovation and style. The brand — and it’s customers — basked in an unmistakable cachet. But two recent product launch events have sparked a serious discussion among tech enthusiasts and the media as more and more people are declaring that Microsoft is the new Apple (and Apple is the new Microsoft). Whether or not this is true I will leave up to you, but I have gathered some strong opinions on the matter to help you do just that.
While the Apple vs Microsoft debate has been raging for decades (who could forget the infamous I’m and Mac and I’m a PC ads), the conversation moved into top gear after Microsoft unveiled the new Surface Studio desktop computer a day before Apple unveiled it’s MacBook Pro refresh. Notice that in describing these events I used the word “new” for one and “refresh” for the other. This, I think, gets to the heart of the recent debate.
Before we get in further I think it’s worth pointing out that everyone is gunning for Apple these days (or at least taking the competition more seriously). It isn’t just Microsoft that is drawing comparisons with Apple’s iconic sex appeal. Google recently launched the Pixel phone which many have called Google’s iPhone.
Ready to dive in?
5 opinions that might make you rethink your stance on whether Microsoft or Apple is currently the more innovative company
1: Microsoft is braver than Apple
Chris Taylor for Mashable: “Admit it: Microsoft is now a braver, more innovative company than Apple”
This article is the boldest recent attempt I’ve seen to shame Apple after the Surface Studio and MacBook Pro announcements.
But under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been clawing its way to relevance with surprising speed.
There is no way to dispute this and frankly I wouldn’t want to. More innovation — from any tech company — is very welcome in my book.
The Studio, Microsoft’s first ever desktop product, is what the iMac should be by now — a truly innovative, ultra-thin, 28-inch touchscreen.
The Studio does have a lot to offer — much of which is brand new and never-before-seen. But to say the iMac should or shouldn’t be something it isn’t really for anyone but Apple — and Apple’s customers — to say. People will vote with their wallets.
Only it’s starting to look like Microsoft is walking the walk, and Apple is just talking the talk.
I think this statement does ring somewhat true but remember: Apple has, at least in the past, been notorious for watching a category or market develop a bit before swooping in and taking ownership. So Apple talking the talk before walking the walk isn’t necessarily unprecedented or even bad.
I’m not saying I’m going to dump my iMac and pick up a Surface any time soon…
This is kind of funny. Taylor has spent an entire article ranting against Apple… only to declare he won’t be decamping for Microsoft yet (despite all of Microsoft’s shiny new innovations).
2: Microsoft and Apple have swapped focus
Jamie Condliffe for MIT Technology Review: “Microsoft Is Looking Like the New Apple”
I think this article does a pretty good job summarizing how many people feel about the current state of Microsoft and Apple innovation.
Microsoft is now attempting to push the boundaries of what computing looks like, by trying to change the way we interact with desktop devices and providing the tools for us to become more involved with the virtual world.
In other words Microsoft seems to be looking toward the future.
Apple, meanwhile, appears to be stuck in a rut. As we’ve explained before, it seems to be struggling to look far beyond its existing products. Instead, it’s simply adding new features to already successful devices rather than reinventing our relationship with technology.
In other words Apple seems to be looking toward the past. I’d really emphasize the word seems because Apple could launch some really cool stuff in the next several months that nobody knows about yet.
3: It’s not just the products: it’s the marketing
James Vincent for The Verge: “Microsoft is doing a better Apple impression than Apple is”
During Steve Jobs later years at Apple the company was renowned for it’s marketing efforts. These days, (notably) less so. This article makes some interesting observations about Microsoft’s latest product launch video compared to Apple’s.
Apple and Microsoft have both announced new computers this week built for professionals, and while the companies’ hardware may be very different, the way they’re selling these new devices is eerily similar.
If people are starting to feel that Microsoft if doing a better job at seeming like the Apple many people hold in the hearts then it’s probably because Microsoft has been actively trying to do just that (in fact Microsoft used the tag “iMac” to promote their Surface Studio video on YouTube, so there you go).
Tech companies of all stripes have been using the slow-mo-component-explosion shot for years as way to show off the engineering that’s gone into making these devices. What’s perhaps most interesting is the reactions to the two videos. The Apple one seems unremarkable, but Microsoft’s is genuinely exciting.
Video production aside I just think many people feel that the Surface Studio just seems newer, cooler and like a bigger deal to most people. Literally speaking it is a bigger deal — the all-new Surface Studio is an enormous desktop machine while the familiar looking MacBook Pro lineup and it’s flagship new feature (the Touch Bar) are much smaller. That may have something to do with the difference in hype as well.
4: Apple is losing key battles to Microsoft
This article seems to take a more micro look at the recent “battle of the unveilings” rather than the bigger, more complex consumer technology war.
Microsoft, while on the rise again, still benefits from lower expectations than Apple. Introducing a new product, such as the Studio, is almost always going to be more exciting than upgrading an old line.
Tsukayama makes two very good points.
#5: Tim Cook DOESN’T think Apple is becoming the new Microsoft
Part of the reason Microsoft ran into an issue was that they didn’t want to walk away from legacy stuff.
This seems kind of damning coming from Apple’s CEO — especially in light of recent events (all the more so since this interview is from early 2015. Apple is still glued to the iPhone and other existing products. Now the Apple Watch was something different (and I really like mine) and Apple has long been rumored to be interested in car technology (which would be new for the company). Also Tim has been talking about AR (augmented reality) recently. But still.
In light of the recent events from Apple and Microsoft I think I’d summarize the way people seem to be feeling like this: the Surface Studio (along with other new Microsoft products) seems overwhelmingly new and cool while the new MacBook Pro lineup doesn’t. Put differently, Apple’s biggest announcement — the Touch Bar — was interesting but the Surface Studio announcement was game-changing. And that’s coming from a huge Apple fan.
I suspect that Apple is lacking an empowered dreamer (or dreamers) within it’s walls. Steve Jobs once held that position and could rely on Tim Cook to manage things. Now, it seems, Apple has a manager and… that’s it. And while everyone respects Jony Ive for his design, the last several years does leave room to doubt his ability to dream drastically new gadgets into existence.
Finally I would point out that everything in the business world is cyclical and Apple isn’t immune. Maybe Apple really is the new Microsoft and maybe Microsoft really is the new Apple (I’m not saying that is the case, mind you). Even if that were true then that reality would be cyclical as well.
What do you think?