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Subject: "Is Microsoft more innovative than Apple?" Previous topic | Next topic
Member since Jan 29th 2003
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Sun Oct-30-16 09:51 PM

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"Is Microsoft more innovative than Apple?"



Admit it: Microsoft is now a braver, more innovative company than Apple

I've been an Apple fanboy since I bought my first Macintosh IIsi — complete with color CRT monitor! — secondhand from a friend at college in 1993.

There followed my first color Powerbook in 1996, my cool purple plastic iMac in 1998, my 2003 Powerbook G4 (the first aluminum one, which Steve Jobs introduced with the unforgettable equation "Power + Sex = ?") and at least a half-dozen other Powerbooks, Macbooks, iMacs and Macbook Pros.

As each of those products was unveiled, I held fast to one single, seemingly inviolable rule about the technology world: whatever their relative size, Apple was always a more innovative company than Microsoft. Heck, Microsoft was barely ever in the game of hardware design, while Windows was always playing catch-up to Mac OS.

But under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been clawing its way to relevance with surprising speed. After watching back-to-back hardware events — Microsoft cleverly staging its Surface Studio and Surface Dial reveal a day before Apple's Macbook announcement — I found myself writing this sentence through gritted teeth:

Is the new Macbook a worthy laptop? Sure, it's thinner and less hot in your lap than ever. The fact that you can power it or connect anything from each of its four USB-C ports is neat, even though Apple now runs the risk of being called "The Dongle Company" for all the connectors those ports are going to require.

About that Touch Bar. That's a really neat emoji keyboard you've got there, Apple! But seriously, let's not sell it short. As a rather too long list of developers demonstrated on stage in Cupertino on Thursday, you can also use this thin strip of OLED screen to scratch in a DJ app, and to make your brushes harder or softer in Photoshop.

Power + Sex = ?

But look at what Microsoft just showed us in Seattle. The Surface Studio is the first machine running Windows that I've lusted after since — well, probably since the then-state-of-the-art Sony Vaio in 2003. (That laptop was what Jobs was describing as "sex" in that "Power + Sex =?" equation.)

The Studio, Microsoft's first ever desktop product, is what the iMac should be by now — a truly innovative, ultra-thin, 28-inch touchscreen. You can tilt it to a variety of comfortable angles and lean on it, drawing away with a stylus on a massive digital canvas at 1:1 scale.

The Touch Bar is a thin screen below a screen, a novelty version of function keys that doesn't really care about ergonomics. As we saw at the Apple event, you have to hunch over your Macbook to use it.

The Surface Studio cares about ergonomics, and it looks gorgeous, like an iMac from the future. (At $3,000, it damn well ought to.)

This should be Apple territory, and Microsoft just occupied it.
The fact that the rumored new iMac didn't, ahem, surface at Thursday's event just underlined the difference between the two companies. This should be Apple territory, and Microsoft just occupied it.

Then there's the Surface Dial — another brave and risky move from Microsoft that seems, at first blush, to have paid off. Stick this smooth little hockey puck on the Surface Studio screen and you can use it as a dial in any number of applications.

You don't need to point to one of Apple's old-school innovations, the trackwheel, to realize how intuitive and useful a dial can be — more so than an extra-thin OLED screen.

If Microsoft had thought to promote a piece of DJ software at the Surface event, for example, scratching on that dial would have wiped the floor with Apple's demo of scratching via the Touch Bar in the Algoriddim Djay app. (And I say that as a longtime lover of Djay on the Mac.)

Microsoft's event could well have been titled, "Let's see how much we can embarrass Apple." Not least because the company showed off the latest innovations in HoloLens, its augmented reality answer to all those VR headsets. We saw people using Microsoft Paint to construct cool 3D objects in what they saw as real space.

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently opined on how AR is superior to VR. He clearly believes we'll use something like the HoloLens in the near future. Only it's starting to look like Microsoft is walking the walk, and Apple is just talking the talk.

Probably the most innovative use of the Touch Bar, the one area where Apple has an edge on its rival, is Apple Pay. Buying stuff on your computer late at night using your thumbprint — that sounds like a cool idea, until you start to think about the real-world result.

Sometimes, the hassle of having to go find your credit card and enter its secret code is not such a bad thing.

It's also shocking to see Microsoft take the lead in presentation style, too. Time was when Apple had the guy who seemed to cut through the tech bullshit as he spoke, who made you lust after beautifully designed gadgets even if you didn't need them.

In these two events, the only presenter who did that was Panos Panay, Microsoft's corporate vice president in charge of Surface devices. Panay was refreshingly honest last year when he said he had made a mistake in the way Surface was originally introduced to the public. It seems he's been working hard to correct that error.

Meanwhile, Apple's storied executives spend their time on stage looking just like Microsoft's most preprogrammed leaders. Tim Cook is still stilted, Phil Schiller still sounds like a car salesman, and Craig Federighi is still full of false bonhomie.

Also, when it comes to marketing, Apple has forgotten one of the primary rules of show business: Always leave them wanting more. I doubt that anyone could have wanted to see more of the Touch Bar after the long line of developers demonstrating its wonders at Thursday's event.

The more demos I saw, the more I was convinced that the Touch Bar was a relatively uninteresting novelty item that we'll use way less than Apple is suggesting.

The company's internal technology strategy doesn't even seem like it makes sense any more. If taking the headphone jack out of the iPhone 7 is "courage," if we're supposedly all moving to wireless headphones in the long term, what does it mean to still have a headphone jack in the Macbook Pro?

That seems like a question that could have been addressed from the stage. Otherwise you're telling us how inconsequential the aux jack is at one event, forcing us to use a dongle to connect our headphones with one device, then admitting the jack is important enough to include dongle-free at the next.

That approach may speak to power — at least, the power to do what they damn well please, kill whatever jacks and ports they like (RIP, Magsafe) and just expect their fans to lap it up. But it certainly doesn't speak to the tech world equivalent of sex.

On the evidence of the last two days, even Steve Jobs would have to admit that the sex is currently in Seattle. Microsoft has true technological courage — the courage to try selling new things, to risk failure in the marketplace, to learn from its mistakes, to present a coherent vision.

I'm not saying I'm going to dump my iMac and pick up a Surface any time soon (although the fact that I had to wait weeks after its PC release to able to play Civilization VI on my Mac also gave me pause). There's too much in the way of legacy software — and when it comes to functionality, Mac OS X Sierra beats Windows 10.

But for the first time in two decades, I'm giving it some serious thought.

<--- Me when my head hits the pillow


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Is Microsoft more innovative than Apple? [View all] , obsidianchrysalis, Sun Oct-30-16 09:51 PM
Subject Author Message Date ID
At this moment in time, yes, definitely
Nov 03rd 2016
I didn't think about Apple's financial genius when I posted this, but...
Nov 06th 2016
I agree. They are making money
Nov 07th 2016
i guess. Apple is trying to make a robot car and shit.
Nov 03rd 2016
RE: i guess. Apple is trying to make a robot car and shit.
Nov 06th 2016
Innovate is a meaningless term in this context
Nov 04th 2016
Apple's innovating the shit outta dongles, can't deny that n/m
Nov 05th 2016
I can, 1/1 dongles are lame
Nov 07th 2016
Nov 07th 2016
           Not a whoosh .. but for Apple Dongles are for legacy
Nov 07th 2016
                Thanks for all that. You continue to prove my point.
Nov 08th 2016
                     Switching to standard ports is a walled garden??
Nov 08th 2016
                          Are you seriously being this willfully ignorant?
Nov 08th 2016
                               WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU????
Nov 08th 2016
                                    You keep focusing on the new MBP.
Nov 08th 2016
                                         Trump won
Nov 09th 2016
                                              Enough to post, at least.
Nov 09th 2016
Apple over its history has been greatly innovative
Nov 06th 2016
      You are repeating "common wisdom" here
Nov 07th 2016
Microsoft is shining right now.
Nov 07th 2016
Android user here who is about to go back to apple but
Nov 08th 2016
Nov 12th 2016
Apple is shit been shit
Nov 10th 2016
Surface Laptop, Windows 10 S (CNET swipe)
May 02nd 2017
reeks WIndow RT but
May 03rd 2017
This seems like it'll be more of a niche product
May 03rd 2017
May 03rd 2017
      All true
May 03rd 2017

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