Today’s Microsoft is not the company that Gates and Ballmer built; the latter built a company to financial riches, the latter pushed the same company into the ground, only to be resurrected– Jobsian style– to compete with Apple in different ways than the old Mac vs. Windows, ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC’ era. Microsoft is the new Anti-Apple.
For many years Apple and Microsoft were kindred companies; born of the early days in silicon valley, at times highly dependent upon one another, yet highly competitive. Apple needed Microsoft’s software. Microsoft needed to sell software. Some industry watchers believe Apple because Microsoft’s Research and Development arm. Regardless of their positioning in the marketplace, Microsoft’s Windows won the desktop and mobile PC wars while the Mac languished.
If what goes around, comes around is a saying that has money in the bank, the early part of the 21st century saw Microsoft languish on the coattails of Windows XP and Office, while Apple re-invented the future with iTunes, Apple Stores, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Watch, and became the world’s richest and most valuable technology company.
Steve Jobs once said death was life’s greatest change agent, but neither Apple nor Microsoft died. They changed. Apple went from rags to riches (again) while Microsoft works feverishly to re-invent itself, and in a way not unlike the early years, both companies need each other.
As the 21st century has progressed, Apple has grown up to become a more mature technology industry citizen with an advanced degree in hardware. Meanwhile, Microsoft has worked to abandon the high volume and low price sales of hardware failures to focus on the premium end of the product spectrum with Surface devices, while leaving the rest of the market for Microsoft’s once and former PC partners.
In a way, Microsoft is the Anti-Apple which uses hardware to showcase the company’s growing list of software, while Apple uses software to showcase and make fortunes on hardware.
Microsoft is getting rid of its low-end products, including the money-losing feature phone business, amid a new-found focus on premium and cloud-based software services. Hardware is still there, but more premium than plastic. Software is where the money is. On the other hand, Apple has become the hardware company it always wanted to be, but recognizes that software remains a huge differentiator in the marketplace.
Apple’s software exists to sell hardware, while Microsoft’s hardware exists to showcase the company’s software and services. That makes Microsoft the 21st century Anti-Apple.