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Microsoft vs. Apple: Under the Surface

The Microsoft vs. Apple saga continues with Surface, but enterprise domination is out of their hands.

There have always been a lot of theories floating around as to why Microsoft does what it does, the latest of which...

is the speculation surrounding its Surface tablet and the Yammer acquisition. Is the Yammer purchase Microsoft's "me first" bid for the enterprise social realm, as opposed to its many "me too's" in areas like the cloud (Azure) and virtualization (Hyper-V )? Will Microsoft leave Yammer alone? Or will it possibly complicate what many call a very easy-to-use collaboration platform when it makes Yammer part of Office? As one tweet put it, "Just what Yammer needs -- a ribbon."

Christina Torode
Christina Torode

As for Microsoft's hardware entrance with Surface, is coming up with a tablet computer a way to light a fire under its OEM partners for not helping it compete better against the iPad? Or is it just another salvo in the long-standing Microsoft vs. Apple war? I think the latter idea hits the nail on the head, but it's not so much that Microsoft wants Apple's tablet market share (of course it does). What it wants is a quality that Apple has perfected and packaged -- the coolness factor.

That wasn't always the case, however. Microsoft was once (and arguably still is) a company to watch and emulate: Let's not forget that a software and hardware ecosystem has been built around its operating system. And the enthusiasm surrounding a new OS launch used to be an event. It was easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm at TechEd and Microsoft Management Summit events. I remember folks in the audience yelling out "Yes!" as if they were responding to a preacher.

I watched as they high-fived each other after nitty-gritty sessions on things like Server Core. Reporters did everything they could to be the first to scoop new Windows OS features. I miss the enthusiasm I used to see coming from the top. If you haven't seen it, check out this 2000 video of Steve Ballmer pumping up developers during Microsoft's 25th anniversary. Then compare that video with this video of Ballmer introducing Surface 12 years later. It's a letdown in terms of stirring up excitement.

I use my iPhone for work and play, but I get my real work done on my Dell Latitude running Windows 7.

Now compare a video of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone with Bill Gates' and Ballmer's video spoofing "Night at the Roxbury," and I think at least one thing becomes clear: Microsoft's attempts at being cool fall flat; Apple just is cool. 

But in the Microsoft vs. Apple battle, Microsoft has a lot of qualities going for it that trump the coolness factor: Windows powers more than 1 billion PCs around the world. The productivity of home users, large corporations, school systems and government agencies depends on this OS, and CIOs are not about to disrupt workflows by ripping it out. Many CIOs are moving or have moved to Windows 7. When it comes to getting the job done, I'll take a workhorse over a show pony any day.

Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that the iPad is simply a show pony by any means. I work with people who grab their iPad -- and only their iPad -- when they travel, and swear by it as their work tool of choice. I want an iPad and I love my iPhone, and love is not a word that I use to convey my feelings for the tech I have to use in the corporate world. I use my iPhone for work and play -- music, FaceTime, GPS, photos; as a recorder, to check email, do research, submit expense reports -- but I get my real work done on my Dell Latitude running Windows 7.

The other quality Microsoft has is tenacity. Time and again, Microsoft was dinged for missing a trend, for being late to the game; and time and again, it's come from behind (Netscape being the most prevalent example of the sneak-attack approach perfected at Redmond). It also has the money to buy what it wants, should the "slow and steady wins the race" approach fail. 

Yammer was a drop in the bucket -- what's $1.2 billion to a company that has $60 billion on hand? One also could argue that Microsoft has to take the slow and steady approach when it introduces a new strategy, given that what it does, or doesn't do, stands to disrupt the productivity flow at businesses of all sizes.

But getting back to Yammer: One Microsoft analyst I spoke with pointed out that the acquisition is not so much Microsoft's play to own social collaboration as it is a means to help IT departments stay ahead of shadow IT, given that the vendor saw Yammer being used by many of its customers while those customers' IT departments weren't even aware of it. Good or bad, Microsoft does try to simplify the use of its products for system admins by tying them all together.

The thing is, it's the consumers (not sys admins) taking their wants and desires to the workplace that is setting more of the enterprise IT agenda. Just look at BYOD, the buildout of new networks to handle mobile traffic, cloud brokers popping up to help CIOs wrangle dozens of Software-as-a-Service apps being used at their company, the grassroots SharePoint deployments that started years ago -- and now Yammer.

To quote Ballmer during his Surface keynote, "People want to work and want to play on the go, and Surface fulfills that dream." Of course, the same could be said for the iPad.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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Do you think the Microsoft Surface will take market share from the iPad?
Simply put: I work with 2 laptops, a Lenovo T60 that I the keyboard and i7HP that I have to work because of the power. The Surface will allow me to possibly get rid of both and not have to carry pieces of furniture around my customers!
I say no, at least not now. Microsoft is coming in late in the game, but who knows, time will tell.
It seems you think people CHOOSE to use Microsoft products. Most don't. We're forced to use their crashy, buggy, slow OS on cobbled together hardware because Microsoft has the money to subsidize HW for business knowing they'll make it up in Office and exchange licensing. Mostly because most MBA bean-counter management gets their IT 'smarts from SkyMall.

This stranglehold is pretty unassailable, so Apple & Google took another route. appeal to the consumers - When people have a choice as to what they use. And they have SPOKEN. Take a look at RIM, the darling of business, that didn't quite have the means to do what Microsoft does. RIM is certainly as cool as Microsoft. RIM is RIP.

The Microsoft surface will be DOA. The 'cheap' one running RT will have 1/6th the apps of an Android or iOS device. Clearly, this could be a turn-off. BUT you can run office a few months early. Wheeee!

The Surface Pro will certainly replace laptop functionality... unless you want to use it on your lap... Given the postage stamp sized touchpad, tiny, cramp-inducing keyboard-that-we-don't-know-if-it-works, and lots of windows software not-built with a touch UI in mind... Well, maybe there is an untapped market share of people who long to have a tablet that needs AV, or want to use regedit, but can't.

lastly, the 'cool factor' aspect is HILARIOUS. When has Microsoft EVER been cool? OS/2 was cooler. Was Win ME ever cool? OSX IS Cooler. Chrome will be cooler. When has anyone ever said Ballmer/Gates was one smooth dude with some slick ideas. I'm thinking never.

In regards to Microsoft, I think George carlin said it best: "You ain't cool; you're chilly. And chilly ain't ever been cool."
I love iPad besides microsoft OS has too many flaws for all the money they pour into R&Dl Up to now basic flaws still there after many many years,,
Withe the intercompatibility from Desktop/Tablet/Phone I can see a clear picture of people touching and getting used to it at some point and the more touches people have on it the more mass effect will drive it to success. I know a couple of people with Apple products now, but the majority still use windows for PC's, that is one touch, after the release of the tablet's the techno lead buyers will be jumping on it and with the last year of developement and testing phases, I think Microsoft has a good idea of any flaws that might slow down any market saturation and has mitigated them fairly well. There is always going to be some that will not integrate unless they are forced to, but the masses typically rule the minors in technology pushes. Apple will not go away for sure, but I believe they will feel the push from Microsoft on this one.
Absolutely, MS tablet will kill the iPAD.
understand consumer market
Kinda like how the Zune totally whiped out the iPod in the consumer maerket? Because people *love* Microsoft. Ohwait...

But... but.. the Zune HD???? wait.... The Kin?... All those Win 7 Phones?... Hmmmm.

May you just don't know much about mobile device trends from the past 5 years?

I mean they had this visionary at Microsoft's helm:

“$500 fully subsidized with a plan! I said that is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine …. I like our strategy. I like it a lot….Right now we’re selling millions and millions and millions of phones a year, Apple is selling zero phones a year. In six months, they’ll have the most expensive phone by far ever in the marketplace and let’s see… let’s see how the competition goes.”
- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 17 January 2007

"It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’”
Bill Gates 10-Feb-2010

Well played, Bill. I'd hate to move 3 MILLION units in a weekend too. Sounds like huge hassle.
I have and love my iPad - but it ain't no mac and it ain't no PC - .... so full OSX on an iPad - will have to be the ultimate - but Apple will never do that so ... surface will take share but not a lot... cool is cool and the iPad is cool.
About 3 years late
Job is out of the way now he is dead. He was the man behind most of Apples success
ipad is a toy
i ll want x86 surface
the msoffice users will be glad to have their files readily available in surface as is
The iPod is too far ahead for Microsoft to now try to play catch-up. It needs to come up with it's own "stack in the ground" initiative
I think it'll be pretty difficult. But time would tell. I believe anything Microsoft lays its hands on has the potential to succeed.
Have you tried Vista? I think Microsoft 'laying hands' on anything is generally a recipe for disaster. At least they are getting rid of .Net and Silverlight.
I do not get your article.. you are comparing what you use your iphone for and your Dell Latitude - gee did I miss something? What is that going to prove - c'mon Christina.
What would have been interesting as a comparison would be that your Surface has totally removed any need for the iGadgets (which I have and love) or that it you have yet to see the wonders of the MacBook as you simple are not able to do your work on that compared to the efficiency of your Dell W7 monster :-)
If it's capable of domain intergration it can be a huge success
The beauty of having the same Domain managed OS from tablet to server has enormous appeal. iPads are great but from an enterprise mangement point of view they present serious problems which I am hoping the Surface will resolve. Then we need to keep our corporate data centralized and not spread around the mobile workforce like Access databases of past.
It could; depending on good reviews.
no way, better real than a copy.