The Fall of Microsoft
2008.09.26 prev next
MICROSOFT’S business strategy can be defined as almost an exact opposite of Apple’s.
Apple strives to release products that are extremely polished; bug-free. Products that don’t have glitchly little eccentricities that can be worked around but are annoying. Apple doesn’t always hit this bullseye (witness the first few weeks of iPhone 2.0), but they seriously aim for it every time.
Microsoft habitually releases products that are buggy to the point of being virtually beta, then fixes those bugs over time — but maybe after a very long time, or even never.
Simplicity and Intuitiveness
Apple wants its interfaces to be as simple and intuitive as possible, while still enabling the users to do what they need and want to do.
Microsoft builds interfaces that are complex and cluttered, with gobs of features jumping at you from many different places at once.
Apple creates innovative, often radically new products. Apple searches for a product idea that is so far-out that no one is currently attempting it, then turns that idea into a real-world product that wows.
Microsoft either buys out a successful new product created by some other company — or creates a me-too imitation of that product, then leverages its OS dominance into dominance of that me-too product.
Focus on the Present
Apple publicly focuses on touting the quality and value of its present, available-for-immediate-purchase products, and keeps as silent as reasonably possible about its future plans.
Microsoft hard-hypes its future plans, to the point that many of those plans later turn out to be vaporware, or major letdowns when they are released long after their originally projected dates.
Use of Open Standards
Apple embraces open standards when and where it thinks those standards will benefit its users.
Microsoft attempts to replace open standards with its own proprietary systems whenever it thinks it might be able to do so.
All of the Microsoft behaviors described above are consequences of building a business around the ability to leverage current OS/Office dominance into future OS/Office dominance. By releasing a buggy, me-too product as soon as possible, you can start sabotaging the original’s foothold as soon as possible. By cluttering your interfaces with junky, redundant controls and in-your-face features, you can get captive users accustomed to many of those features to the point that they will be uncomfortable trying to switch to a system that doesn’t have them. By hyping future plans, you can discourage people from choosing currently-available non-Microsoft options. And by sabotaging open standards, you can create problems for anyone who tries to switch to another company’s system.
This tactic works only so long as OS dominance is maintained, and as long as each individual prong of the plan can be effectively implemented. But lately, several problems have eroded each of the planks of the Microsoft strategy:
Becoming accustomed to releasing unpolished products has created a quality slide at Microsoft that is starting to result in things so bad (i.e. Vista) that consumers and businesses simply refuse to use them (even if they keep using an older Microsoft product). This hurts Microsoft’s bottom line, and also draws attention to the high polish of the competition (i.e. Mac OS X).
As computing is seriously expanding into the mobile, pocket-computer field, the strategy of crowding your interface with cluttery features becomes untenable.
Perpetually adding on to legacy compatibility code worked great to maintain (via backward compatibility) Windows dominance in the desktop arena — but created an OS that can’t be realistically moved to any handheld device for the foreseeable future. WinCE and Windows Mobile are not really the same OS as desktop Windows, and therefore have no current-dominance-leverage to guarantee victory over alternatives. They have fared very poorly against those alternatives — and that was before anyone had even heard of an iPhone.
The consumer public and the business world have learned to expect Microsoft to tout future products that probably won’t live up to their hype, and so no longer feel intimidated by the prospect of buying into non-Microsoft technologies.
Consumers and business people also have learned to expect Microsoft to come out with proprietary replacements for open standards, and are now repulsed by such attempts to the point that they are unafraid to decline to use them.
Apple long loathed to be easily compatible with Windows, out of fear that doing so would send a message to its customers and developers that they may as well switch to Windows. That fear was unfounded, and Apple today is unafraid to purposely create Microsoft compatibility with its products (e.g. iTunes on Windows).
While the federal anti-trust prosecutions of Microsoft may not have truly remedied past anti-competitive actions, they did at least create an atmosphere in which blatant future acts will be immediately intolerated. For example, today’s Microsoft wouldn’t dare modify Windows so that it recognizes iTunes and refuses to run it, nor would they dare release a new version of Windows that always launches media files in Microsoft’s own media apps, regardless of user preference. Classic dominance-leverage tactics have become too legally dangerous.
In large part due to the above factors, Apple is gaining significant market share for the first time in decades, especially in laptops, and is embarassing Microsoft in handheld device share.
Once Microsoft’s OS dominance slips away, its whole business strategy dies with it. And then what will it do?
I submit that the difference in approach by Apple and Microsoft over the past fifteen years has attracted two very different types of people to the two companies. Apple now has most of the people who can and will efficiently fuel the Apple approach, whereas Microsoft is populated heavily with people who are a natural fit to the above-described Microsoft approach.
That means that once Microsoft can’t leverage dominance into more dominance, it will be totally blown away by Apple. iPod is the first example of this. iPhone is the second.
Update 2011.04.11 — iPad is the third.
Microsoft’s Three Ruts
Microsoft’s Alternate Reality Bubble
Features (Regularly Updated)
A Memory of Gateway — news chronology of Apple’s ascendancy to the top of the technology mountain.
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux — amusing litany of industry pundits desperately hoping the iPhone will go away and die.
Silly iPad Spoilsports — same thing for the iPad, and the company in general.
Now available on the iBookstore!
Joel on Software
The J. Peterman Company
Zombie Survival Guide plus Dawn of the Dead
Charlie Superfly Check “The First Time” to hear what she actually sang in the competition. HowardTV ripped it out and spliced in utter crap they had her sing later.
Real Solution #9 (Mambo Mania Mix) over stock nuke tests. (OK, somebody made them rip out the music — try this instead.)
Ernie & Bert In Casino
Great Explanation of Star Wars
Best commercials (IMO) from Superbowl 41, 43, 45, 46, and 47
Kirk & Spock get Closer
American football explained.
Piada. Yum. Like, Chipotle meets Italian.
Sonos and Opalum — awesome sound stuff I saw at CEDIA.
TV: Breaking Bad; House of Cards; Inside Amy Schumer
Celebrity Death Beeper — news you can use.
Steve Ballmer explains the secret of Microsoft’s success.
Making things for the web.
My vote for best commercial ever. (But this one’s a close second.)
Pinball Arcade: Unbelievably accurate simulation of classic pinball machines from the late ’70s through the ’90s, with new ones added periodically. Like MAME for pinball — maybe better.
Best 9/11 documentaries: Inside 9/11: Zero Hour; Inside the Twin Towers; 102 Minutes That Changed America
Favorite local pad thai: Pho Asian Noodle on Lane Ave. Yes, that place; blame Taco Bell for the amenities. Use the lime, chopsticks, and sriracha. Yummm.
Um, could there something wrong with me if I like this?
This entire website as a zip file — last updated 2015.01.01
Stupefying New Year’s Stupidity
The Innovator’s Victory
The Cult of Free
Fitness — The Ultimate Transparency
Millions of Strange Devotees and Fanatics
Remember the iPod Killers?
Theory As Simulation
What Was Christensen Thinking?
The Grass Is Always Greener — Viewing Angle
Is Using Your Own Patent Still Allowed?
The Upside-Down Tech Future
Motive of the Anti-Apple Pundit
Cheating Like A Human
Security-Through-Obscurity Redux — The Best of Both Worlds
iPhone 2013 Score Card
Dominant and Recessive Traits, Demystified
Yes, You Do Have To Be the Best
The United States of Texas
He’s No Jobs — Fire Him
McEnroe, Not Borg, Had Class
Conflict Fades Away
Four-Color Theorem Analysis — Rules To Limit the Problem
The Unusual Monopolist
Five Times What They Paid For It
Bypassable Security Certificates Are Useless
I’d Give My Right Arm To Go To Mars
Free Advice About Apple’s iOS App Store Guidelines
Understanding IDC’s Tablet Market Share Graph
I Vote Socialist Because...
Product Naming — Google Is the Other Microsoft
Apple Paves the Way For Apple
Why — A Poem
App Anger — the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Marco Arment Doesn’t See
Apple’s Graphic Failure
Why Microsoft Copies Apple (and Google)
Coders Code, Bosses Boss
Droidfood For Thought
Investment Is Not A Sure Thing
Exercise is Two Thirds of Everything
Dan “Real Enderle” Lyons
Ignoring the iPod touch
Manual Intervention Should Never Make A Computer Faster
Zeroth — Why the Century Number Is One More Than the Year Number
Longer Than It Seems
Partners: Believe In Apple
Gun Control: Best Arguments
John C. Dvorak — Translation To English
Free Will — The Grand Equivocation
What Windows-vs.-Mac Actually Proved
A Tale of Two Logos
Microsoft’s Three Paths
Amazon Won’t Be A Big Winner In the DOJ’s Price-Fixing Suit
Infinite Sets, Infinite Authority
Strategy Analytics and Long Term Accountability
The Third Stage of Computing
Why 1 Isn’t Prime, 2 Is Prime, and 2 Is the Only Even Prime
Lie Detection and Psychos
Microsoft’s Dim Prospects
Humanity — Just Barely
Hanke-Henry Calendar Won’t Be Adopted
Collatz Conjecture Analysis (But No Proof; Sorry)
Rock-Solid iOS App Stability
Microsoft’s Uncreative Character
Microsoft’s Alternate Reality Bubble
Microsoft’s Three Ruts
Society’s Fascination With Mass Murder
PlaysForSure and Wikipedia — Revisionism At Its Finest
How Many Licks
Microsoft’s Incredible Run
Collatz Conjecture ... Not Yet
The Size of Things In the Universe
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy That Wasn’t
Nobody Was In Love With Windows
Apples To Apples — How Anti-Apple Pundits Shoot Themselves In the Foot
No Holds Barred
Betting Against Humanity
Apple’s Premium Features Are Free
Why So Many Computer Guys Hate Apple
3D TV With No Glasses and No Parallax/Focus Issues
Waves With Particle-Like Properties
Gridlock Is Just Fine
Sex Is A Fantasy
Why the iPad Wannabes Will Definitely Flop
Predators and Parasites
Prison Is For Lotto Losers
The False Dichotomy
Wait and See — Windows-vs-Mac Will Repeat Itself
Dishonesty For the Greater Good
Barr Part 2
Zune Is For Apple Haters
Good Open, Bad Open
Beach Bodies — Who’s Really Shallow?
Upgrade? Maybe Not
Eliminating the Impossible
Farewell, Pirate Cachet
The Two Risk-Takers
Number of Companies — the Idiocy That Never Dies
Holding On To the Solution
What You Have To Give Up
The End of Elitism
Good and Evil
How Religion Distorts Science
Laziness and Creativity
Sideloading and the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Snell Doesn’t See
App Store Success Won’t Translate To Books, Movies, and Shows
Silly iPad Spoilsports
Five Rational Counterarguments
Reaganomics — Like A Diet — Works
Apple’s On the Right Track
Mountains of Evidence
What We Do
Hope Conquers All
Humans Are Special — Just Not That Special
Life = Survival of the Fittest
Excuse Me, We’re Going To Build On Your Property
No Trademark iWorries
The Fall of Google
The Meaning of Kicking Ass
How To Really Stop Casual Movie Disc Ripping
The Solitary Path of the High-Talent Programmer
Fixing, Not Preaching
Why Blackmail Is Still Illegal
Designers Cannot Do Anything Imaginable
Wise Dr. Drew
Rats In A Too-Small Cage
Coming To Reason
Everything Isn’t Moving To the Web
Pragmatics, Not Rights
The Purpose of Language
The Punishment Defines the Crime
Two Many Cooks
One Last Splurge
What Heaven and Hell Are Really About
America — The Last Suburb
What the Cloud Isn’t For
What You’re Seeing
What My Life Needs To Be
Taking An Early Retirement
A, B, C, D, Pointless Relativity
Stephen Meyer and Michael Medved — Where Is ID Going?
If You Didn’t Vote — Complain Away
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux
What Free Will Is Really About
PTED — The P Is Silent
Out of Sync
Security Through Normalcy
The Case For Corporate Bonuses
Movie Copyrights Are Forever
Permitted By Whom?
Quantum Cognition and Other Hogwash
The Problem With Message Theory
Bell’s Boring Inequality and the Insanity of the Gaps
Paying the Rent At the 6 Park Avenue Apartments
Primary + Reviewer — An Alternative IT Plan For Corporations
Yes Yes Yes
Hey Hey Whine Whine
Microsoft About Microsoft Visual Microsoft Studio Microsoft
Hidden Purple Tiger
Forest Fair Mall and the Second Lamborghini
Intelligent Design — The Straight Dope
Maxwell’s Demon — Two Real-World Examples
Einstein’s Error — The Confusion of Laws With Their Effects
The Museum Is the Art
Polly Sooth the Air Rage
Morality = STDs?
Fulfilling the Moral Duty To Disdain
The Two Rules of Great Programming
The End of the Nerds
Poverty — Humanity’s Damage Control
Berners-Lee’s Rating System = Google
The Secret Anti-MP3 Trick In “Independent Women” and “You Sang To Me”
ID and the Large Hadron Collider Scare
Not A Bluff
The Fall of Microsoft
Life Sucks When You’re Not Winning
The Old-Fashioned Way
The Old People Who Pop Into Existence
Theodicy — A Big Stack of Papers
The Designed, Cause-and-Effect Brain
The Capitalist’s Imaginary Line
Education Isn’t Everything
I Don’t Know
Funny iPhone Party-Poopers
Avoiding Conflict At All Costs
Behavior and Free Will, Unconfused
“Reduced To” Absurdum
Suzie and Bubba Redneck — the Carriers of Intelligence
Everything You Need To Know About Haldane’s Dilemma
Darwin + Hitler = Baloney
Designed For Combat
Speed Racer R Us
Bold — Uh-huh
Conscious of Consciousness
Where Real and Yahoo Went Wrong
The Purpose of Surface
Eradicating Religion Won’t Eradicate War
A Tale of Two Movies
The Changing Face of Sam Adams
Dinesh D’Souza On ID
Why Quintic (and Higher) Polynomials Have No Algebraic Solution
Translation of Paul Graham’s Footnote To Plain English
What Happened To Moore’s Law?
Goldston On ID
The End of Martial Law
The Two Faces of Evolution
A Fine Recommendation
Free Will and Population Statistics
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — D’Souza
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — Dennett
The Non-Euclidean Geometry That Wasn’t There
Defective Attitude Towards Suburbia
The Twin Deficit Phantoms
Sleep Sync and Vertical Hold
More FUD In Your Eye
The Myth of Rubbernecking
Keeping Intelligent Design Honest
Failure of the Amiga — Not Just Mismanagement
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer = Be My Honey Do?
End Unsecured Debt
The Digits of Pi Cannot Be Sequentially Generated By A Computer Program
Faster Is Better
Goals Can’t Be Avoided
Ignoring ID Won’t Work
The Crabs and the Bucket
Communism As A Side Effect of the Transition To Capitalism
Google and Wikipedia, Revisited
National Geographic’s Obesity BS
Theodicy Is For Losers
A Memory of Gateway
Is Apple’s Font Rendering Really Non-Pixel-Aware?
Humans Are Complexity, Not Choice
A Subtle Shift
Moralism — The Emperor’s New Success
Code Is Our Friend
The Edge of Religion
The Dark Side of Pixel-Aware Font Rendering
The Futility of DVD Encryption
ID Isn’t About Size or Speed
ID Venn Diagram
Rich and Good-Looking? Why Libertarianism Goes Nowhere
FUV — Fear, Uncertainty, and Vista
Malware Isn’t About Total Control
Howard = Second Coming?
Doomsday? Or Just Another Sunday
The Real Function of Wikipedia In A Google World
Clarity From Cisco
2007 Macworld Keynote Prediction
FUZ — Fear, Uncertainty, and Zune
No Fear — The Most Important Thing About Intelligent Design
How About A Rational Theodicy
Napster and the Subscription Model
Intelligent Design — Introduction
The One Feature I Want To See In Apple’s Safari.