On walkabout in life and technology

Apple vs Microsoft Launch Differences

I started a post on the Windows 8 Launch which I will get back to later, because there were some very key differences between the two presentations and they really resounded with me. Some of them stylistic, some fundamental, you choose which.

Microsoft: “will”, Apple: “is”. A lot of the Microsoft presentation was all about “will”, you will be more productive, you will have more device choices, you will enjoy, you will do X better. Apple’s presentation was all about what “is”. This is how you do X better, these are your choices, this is fun. To me, a product launch is about what the product is not what it will be.

Microsoft: Touch and Mouse, Apple: Touch or Mouse. Microsoft is promoting Windows as the do anything on any device platform, Windows is generic. Apple is promoting OS X for PC and iOS for Touch, specific platforms for specific devices. Yet on closer inspection Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 all seem to have common elements and design, but are different platforms requiring different toolkits to develop for, just like the Apple split. Maybe as a developer I don’t see Windows as a single platform, but the public will. Either way, there will be confusion. Apple’s specifics reduce that confusion.

Microsoft: “choice”, Apple: “best”. A heck of a lot of the Microsoft launch was about “choice”. Choose your price range, form factor, size, weight, screen size, vendor and tools, and they never lean more in the direction of one or the other. Apple’s presentation was all about “best”, what Apple thinks is best that is, and limits price range and form factor to a few Apple designs. For many, the Apple approach is great because they do not have to think; for just as many, the limited selection from Apple is too small. I’d love to know what Microsoft thinks is the best hardware for Windows, or maybe they have done so with the Surface. But there are just too many choices and price points for Windows 8 devices for even me to get my head around, never mind the regular consumer.

Microsoft: Partner Design, Apple: Our design. Microsoft did present and show a lot of different partner products and Ballmer did talk a lot about their partners designs. Apple talks about its own design. In doing so, Apple tries to point out why it believes its designs are better, and sometimes comes off like a hipster trying to explain themselves. Microsoft talked about other people’s designs but did not point out if they liked the design, if the design was any good or why their partner designs were better or worse than, well, anything. Maybe they cannot play favorites, but I’d like to know what designs they think are better and why.

Microsoft: Work and Play, Apple: Productivity. One big difference in the two is that Microsoft perceives work to be something completely different from play, and spent a lot of time trying to convince us that Windows 8 is great for both these very separate and different activities. Apple does not distinguish between work and play, treats them as the same, and focuses more on productivity and creativity in whatever you are using the computer for. Microsoft knows that work and play are merging, and that for many work is their passion, hobby and love, but cannot bring themselves to accept it. Then again, I think Apple forgets that professionals do need and like professional tools when working, which are not needed when playing.

Microsoft: Office first, Apple: Music, Photos, Documents. I think a huge push and benefit of Windows 8 is the personalization of the environment, it really suits home personal computing, yet their presentation segments always started with work first. I get it, corporates are their biggest users, and Office is their second biggest cash cow, it needs to be promoted. But they missed out on the personal connection that makes the P in PC’s personal in this launch. Apple probably gets too personal and emotional sometimes, but this emotional connection is why people love their Apple products. No-one really loves their Windows PC.

Microsoft: Bing search, Apple: Spotlight built right in. An oddity in my mind, Windows 8 uses a bolt-on search engine, Bing, for local search, whereas Apple uses built-in technology, Spotlight. Windows 8 therefore still continues the Windows tradition of search being an afterthought when search has become one of the key ways people want to and try to use their computers. I am surprised so many iPhone and iPad users swipe left and use the full-screen built-in search for everything. And as a Mac user, I could not do anything without Spotlight.

Microsoft: Tells you what to think, Apple: Tells you what they think. Maybe I am getting a tad pedantic here, but much of the Microsoft launch was people, especially Ballmer, telling the audience what they should think, not what he or Microsoft thinks. Kinda like Fox News tells its audience what they should think about the news. Apple always tells us what they think, but lets us make up our own minds whether we agree or not.

Microsoft: Forecast Sales, Apple: Actual Sales. The Microsoft launch was all about how many Windows 8 devices they will sell, Apple’s was all about how many they did sell. Now, Microsoft seriously dominates the desktop market, but did not talk too much about the penetration of Windows 7. I’ll accept that their tablet and phone products are just being launched properly now, but future sales are snake oil sales until they happen.

Microsoft: Few slides, short demo, Apple: Lots of slides, lots of demos. This one was quite concerning, because I wondered what was wrong that they they did not show more. The launch had a lot of talking, and they talked about a lot of things, but the slides behind the speakers remained the same generic slides for minutes at a time. For example, Ballmer spent 2 minutes talking about Office, yet not once did the slide behind him show any screenshots, features or pricing. The slide remained the same list of products. When he moved on to the Bing applications, the same slide stayed up, no screen shots of the lovely new sports app or the weather app. Why not? As for the demo, it was so quick that I wondered if they were using an alpha level product and were trying to dodge the bugs. I know that’s not true, but it presented that way. Apple uses lots of slides to show the products and features as they present, then demos them in detail. Heck of a difference.

Oh, and Microsoft, 12:01 AM tomorrow is not today, yet presenters kept on using today for availability.