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Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple

Gordon Kelly


Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple

CES 2012 is at an end, and with it, so is the event's final Microsoft keynote. CES 2013 will be a very different show without the presence of the Remond-based company, but those changes could be minimal compared to how Microsoft hopes to change over the same timeframe. Whisper it: Microsoft is turning into Apple.

"We won’t have a keynote or booth [at CES] after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing," forewarned Microsoft corporate communications VP Frank X. Shaw in December. "As we look at all of the new ways we tell our consumer stories – from product momentum disclosures, to exciting events like our Big Windows Phone, to a range of consumer connection points like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and our retail stores – it feels like the right time to make this transition."


Shaw could well be right about CES's timing. This year the show was moved back a week to make it easier for companies returning from the Christmas and New Year break, but its placement hasn't hindered Microsoft much in the past. Over the years CES has been the stage Microsoft has delivered a raft of important firsts including the first public demo of the Xbox, Windows Media Center (at the time called 'Freestyle'), the first beta of Windows 7 and the news of ARM support in Windows 8. Microsoft has also been the key CES partner, with Gates and Ballmer in turns hosting the pre-show keynote address.

Numerous reasons have been levelled for the split, from stand rates to contract lengths, but the truth is Microsoft these days seeks something CES cannot deliver: control. While the company talks up search, the Cloud and its Metro UI, the real focus for the years ahead is to take back control of its image and to lock down the performance of its PC and mobile platforms which have been damaged so badly by lackadaisical third parties.

Shaw's list of "new ways we tell our consumer stories" is interesting: Big Windows Phone, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and Microsoft's own retail stores. At no point does he mention other trade shows, hardware and software partners or third party retailers. Mobile World Congress begins next month and there are giant tech shows later in the year like CeBIT, IFA and E3 - not a single name check. Microsoft is getting tough… it is getting like Apple.


The signs have been there for some time. With the Xbox Microsoft took control of hardware and software for the first time. It could be argued this was necessary given the intrinsically locked down nature of consoles, but Microsoft could have easily employed the same system Sky uses for its set-top boxes and had them built to specific requirements by third parties.

More to the point it took control of peripherals to an extent where 'Made for iPod' looked positively liberal, and it ventured in a direction even infamous control freak Sony dared not tread: locking down hard drive upgrades. What Microsoft produced were neat, overpriced modules which the company justified by claiming such measures were needed to guarantee they 'just worked'. Sound familiar?

It was just the start…


January 15, 2012, 2:11 am

Microsoft are roughly six years behind Apple - on any measure of innovation, business model or market position. Quite an impressive feat given their previous domination. I bet they still paid out bonuses to those charged with such great strategy work! I remember quite a few on Trusted Reviews (including the author of this item) being very cynical about Apple (remind me - an iPad was a big iPod touch which had no clear functionality and would never catch on!!). Microsoft will not be able to recover it's position. The PC market will decline very heavily over the next five years as mobile and tablet become the way to access content in the cloud. New companies will appear to take advantage of this. It was a good run Microsoft 1975 - 2015!


January 16, 2012, 4:32 am

Haha, I knew that point would come back to bite me! I maintain an iPad is essentially a big iPod touch, what has transformed it into a runaway success are both the quality of its apps and the failure of Android to so-far develop tablet specific apps of similar amount or quality.

I certainly don't believe it is over for Microsoft. Fees on 70% of all Android phones sold and counting, remember... and it has immense cash reserves to call upon to facilitate change. It will need them having let slip search, mobile, browsing and Cloud computing in previous years - each of which it is desperately trying to win back.

Apple's evolution under new leadership will be just as interesting once Jobs' road maps have been exhausted. It may be down, but never count out Microsoft.


January 16, 2012, 7:11 pm

What is a motivation for this kind of articles? Is Apple a software company? I don't think so. They are more like hardware/software re-sellers. If you write a list of MS products and list of Apple products, you should notice quite a big difference.


January 18, 2012, 9:16 pm

Interesting article, but given that the title asked why Microsoft is becoming more like Apple and "why is this a good thing?", it would have been nice to hear some views on why it might NOT be a good thing. There is talk of "customer experience", which of course means a simpler, smoother experience. It also means less choice. Less choice of hardware, less choice of software, less choice of how you can use the hardware and software, less choice in the content that can be accessed. Maybe I'm just being stubborn since everyone else is prepared to ignore these concerns in favour of a shiny and convenient "experience", but it would be nice to at least address the issue.


January 18, 2012, 9:32 pm

P.s. I realise I misquoted and the subtitle read "is this a good thing" rather than "why is this a good thing"? The question was not answered so my point stands.


January 22, 2012, 7:55 am

I'll switch to Kubuntu in 2013, that's for sure.


January 23, 2012, 2:17 am

Appreciate your correct. This aspect was dealt with in a previous editorial which you may find pertinent:


January 23, 2012, 2:22 am

Because they're highly relevant. It sounds to me like you haven't read the article fully. You will find this relevant:

"I remember when" isn't really applicable when discussing past industry opinions. It is constantly changing, as will our views toward it.


December 26, 2012, 9:42 pm

I see linux becoming a LOT more popular in the next few years

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