Apple CEO Tim Cook recently asked the question many of us have been mulling over for some time now: what on earth are Microsoft thinking? This question, raised by Cook at the most recent meeting of the Apple shareholders, was to my mind the beginning of an attack on Microsoft for their vision that a tablet and a desktop can share the same operating system and concept.
Cook termed the decision “crazy” and likened it to a toaster/refrigerator possible but what’s the point? Cook asserted that such a hybrid would lead to too many compromises and in attempting to please everyone would ultimately please no one. Cook further stressed this by saying Apple would never put the same OS on the Mac and on the iPad because people are using tablets and desktops or laptops in completely different ways and in completely different context and scenarios.
Regular readers will know I too believe context is king, but unlike Cook I do not think Microsoft have lost their mind – I think they are just coming at the problem from a totally different place.
Ultimately Microsoft are worried Apple are going to do what Microsoft did to all the other vendors back in the 90s. We all know that today Microsoft is dominant force in Office applications for the enterprise, how did they achieve this? They took existing solutions which the enterprise used and improved them releasing a better and more user friendly version.
So if you like me can remember the early 90s, in spreadsheets Lotus 123 was the world leader. Microsoft simply improved it made it simpler and made the user interface better then they spread it across the market almost free of charge.
Similarly, if you look at Word processing the dominant force was Word Perfect – everyone used it and again Microsoft just released a better cheaper more friendly user version and quickly hooked the enterprise market. As I said, the main worry for Microsoft is that Apple will copy this strategy and begin to break into the enterprise market, their cash cow for the last 18 to 20 years.
As we all know with Microsoft the vast majority of enterprises have a global agreement which Microsoft can change the conditions off every year, or every 3 years depending on the size of the enterprise. Traditionally every time they do this they make a bit more money. Apple’s approach is completely different. They try and give you something like PowerPoint for £10 or Excel for £7 per user – a direct assault in Microsoft’s home ground.
This direct attack is not being taken lightly by Microsoft. They, like everyone, have noticed a lot of people are using a remote desktop concept to access enterprise information via their tablet. To me remote desktop is a really nice way to reduce the cost of ownership of managing a desktop while creating a virtual desktop on a server and allowing the user remote access to it.
Such a threat to Microsoft is this remote desktop that they are changing their licensing agreement so there will be an additional charge for this sort of access if you are not connecting from a Microsoft tablet.
This license change is Microsoft’s first attempt to protect their home ground within the enterprise market. However, I believe this is just the first shot of many. In the next few months or years all Microsoft’s innovation will come from this defensive stance. Protecting their hold on the enterprise is Microsoft’s main concern while conquering that market is Apple’s next big mountain to climb.
This I believe can only benefit the market as there is nothing like competition to drive innovation. In my last blog post I discussed what might be the beginning of the end for Android but I think the war between Microsoft and Apple is just beginning to hot up. And what’s more – it’s not just about technology it is about market share.