Foley on Microsoft

10 Apples To Tempt Microsoft

Here's hoping that Microsoft doesn't fall for the bait.

The annual Macworld show happens later this month -- the time when pundits inevitably pit Microsoft against Apple in their various analyses. The formulas are quite predictable, as are the results. Typical findings: "Microsoft should learn these lessons from Apple" or "Microsoft should take a page from Apple's book."

Sure, there are some areas where Apple is ahead of Microsoft, especially in the areas of design and packaging. But not everything Apple does is worthy of emulation by the Redmondians. In fact, some of the strategic moves Apple has made in the past couple of years are ones Microsoft should avoid.

Here are my Top 10.

Microsoft should not:

1. Pooh-pooh the power of third-party developers. While many in the open source community love the Mac OS, the reality is Apple makes its living from proprietary systems. There could be a change coming, given that Apple is belatedly releasing an iPhone SDK.

2. Believe no one else can "think different." Starting from the top, Apple is arrogant. 'Softies can be just as proud -- if not more so -- ask anyone in the tech industry. But the Microsoft arrogance is tempered by a sense of self-questioning and willingness to reflect on "how we suck."

3. Assume your inner circle of press "friends" will protect you in perpetuity. Apple seemingly hand-selects which press/reviewers get its products based on how favorable their coverage is. If Microsoft tried to operate this way, the company probably would be sued.

4. Attempt to ban use of the "M" word. Apple PR recently was caught on tape unceremoniously ending an interview when a journalist asked whether iTunes might be considered an illegal monopoly. As much as Microsoft might hate the "M" word, monopoly allegations and questions are going to plague the company for the rest of its days.

5. Ding your existing customers and expect them to stay loyal. Can you imagine the outrage if Microsoft had customers queuing for days before rolling out a new product (iPhone), only to slash hundreds of dollars off its price a couple of months after the rollout?

6. Sue bloggers. While on the topic of lawsuits, what the heck was Apple thinking when it sued bloggers a few years back for publishing alleged Apple trade secrets passed on to them by sources? Microsoft has rattled some cages to dissuade the press from making public information obtained fairly from leakers, but it has respected the freedom of the press.

7. Think that no comments (and black turtlenecks) will make everything OK. I've been on the receiving side of plenty of Microsoft "no comments" when trying to report/confirm a story. But at least I get no comments. Queries to Apple -- by press, developers and users -- often go unanswered or are answered in doublespeak. Being cool doesn't mean being unresponsive.

8. Throw stones at a time when everyone in the transparent tech world lives in glass houses. 'Softies must be loving reports of Mac OS Leopard crashes and iPhone bricking, especially after Apple's campaign to disparage Vista with the "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" commercials.

9. Expect an "RDF" to be an everlasting force field. An RDF is a Reality Distortion Field (i.e. the combination of charm, charisma and belief perpetuated by Apple and its followers that Apple is the center of the universe). Microsoft doesn't have a fan-boy army anything like the instantly excitable Mac zealots, but then blind loyalists can quickly become an angry mob.

10. Bank on consumer sales leading to enterprise sales. Apple has done little to reach out to business users. The underlying message: If business users are smart, hip and cool enough, they'll understand why Apple products are superior. Now that Microsoft officials have taken to justifying Redmond's growing consumer investments by claiming tech innovation is coming from consumers, not business users, Microsoft could go the same route.

Got any other advice for the 'Softies about what they should copy or avoid copying from the Cupertino crew?

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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