How Apple lost to Microsoft last week
Last week, Apple and Microsoft had dueling product launch events. And in the technical version of this “Who wore it better?” contest, the winner seems to be: Microsoft.
It’s true. At least in the microcosm of the past week, Microsoft has made Apple look squared off, having lifted the lid on a 28-inch touchscreen all-in-one desktop computer called Surface Studio that immediately had enthusiasts drooling. technology. Above a desk.
(Also see: Everything you need to know about Microsoft Surface Studio)
You could say it’s an apples to oranges comparison. Microsoft, although again on the rise, still enjoys lower expectations than Apple. Introducing a new product, such as the Studio, will almost always be more exciting than upgrading an older lineup. But there is a common thread here, which we can use to analyze how these companies envision the future – more specifically, the future of touch and computing.
(Also see: The Microsoft-Apple rivalry is alive and well)
Touch itself, as a technology, is not new. But Microsoft has done a good job of defining its incorporation of touch with the Studio as an expansive, liberating, and universal way to unlock potential. Who doesn’t want to think they have a symphony, a novel, or an artistic masterpiece in them, just waiting to be unlocked by the right new tools?
Apple, on the other, seems to have uncharacteristically missed its audience pitch. Speaking to analysts after his event, it seemed “current MacBook Pro owners looking to upgrade” were Apple’s main target audience.
It’s convenient – Apple laptops are selling well. It’s not inspiring, is it?
What makes this even weirder is that Apple is arguably the company that arguably did something really new for their business, at least – the Touch Bar shows something we’ve never seen from Apple before. The Surface Studio is gorgeous, but Microsoft has basically created a huge version of its Surface tablet. It’s very sleek and powerful, but that’s basically what it is.
(Also see: The 2016 MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is basically a built-in Apple Watch)
Given a few days and a truly dazzling Apple event, that probably could have become the Studio’s storyline. But try to explain exactly what Apple did, and it’s surprisingly difficult. They put a miniature iPhone screen on top of the keyboard, which you could probably ignore if you wanted to?
That’s an overly harsh assessment of the Touch Bar from someone who’s only played with it for less than half an hour in total. But the Touch Bar certainly lacks a clarity of purpose that Microsoft has managed to nail with its products – and managed to nail it by not-so-subtly tackling Apple’s traditional creative market.
Even Apple’s main on-stage photo-editing and DJ demos weren’t effective arguments for the MacBook Pro. The demos were okay, but something needed to be communicated to a wider set of users that wasn’t just “Hey, you can stop using those hotkeys you’ve devoted to muscle memory over the years “.
Should there be all red lights and horns in Cupertino? Not necessarily. But there’s a sense of nostalgia for something more from Apple. Apple has a lot to prove, and it doesn’t prove it well enough. I heard more “Well, I’m a little tempted by the [insert competing product here] from Apple fans this year that I have heard for a long time.
(Also see: MacBook Pro 2016 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro vs. HP Specter 13)
Temptation isn’t enough to uproot a customer, especially when you’ve managed to keep users in your ecosystem like Apple has. Apple will always make money, as Apple fans have proven in the past that they are willing to pay more for its products, said Linn Huang of analyst firm IDC.
“Apple is able to say, with something new, that it can charge whatever it wants,” he said.
But that’s no way to retain happy customers, especially for a company that prides itself on manufacturing fun. Yet somehow it’s Microsoft – out of desperation, inspiration, or a combination of the two – that has managed to make head-turning products.
Apple shouldn’t panic. But it should at least be noted.
© 2016 The Washington Post
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