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Microsoft Flatters Apple with Imitation

Microsoft unveiled the new Microsoft without a lot of fanfare. In fact, it was played out in a letter to shareholders -- rather than the company's typical blow out, big city events.

What used to be a packaged software company (remember when software came in boxes?) is now a devices and services company, says the letter from Steve Ballmer.

Two issues are worth noting: First, Microsoft truly sees the cloud taking over. If Microsoft can make as much or more as on-premises gives way to service providers, that will be an amazing feat.

This is just the type of opening that kills old companies and births new ones. Here Azure and Office 365 are doing the heavy lifting, and we'll be watching these two pretty carefully.

The devices mandate is more of a shock. Microsoft isn't just dipping its toe in with Surface, it's ducking its whole head in!

While Ballmer claims Redmond will still rely on OEMs for the bulk of products while Microsoft focuses on "specific devices for specific purposes," it is clear that Microsoft intends to be a full-on hardware company.

It is pretty obvious to me that Ballmer sees the unrivaled success of Apple, which builds hardware around its software and produces products that just plain work. I've bought a lot of Macs, an iPhone (for my son Nick!), an iPad (taken over by Nick who uses it as the family camera) and iPods. The only devices that let me down are the sketchy iPods (the iBreak). And once these suckers go south, there's no choice but to toss 'em.

Microsoft also saw how stable and impressive the Xbox has been and now wants to do the same with PCs.

I for one welcome the change. I'm really starting to think that Microsoft-built machines without the Intel legacy could be just the way to get rid of all this flaky Windows behavior. Does it make any sense that Windows is now over a quarter of a century old and my Windows 7 machine goes south when on too long, leaving me to recover all my crashed Office docs? This is more embarrassing than an Adam Sandler comedy. Have you seen Jack and Jill? Rotten Tomatoes ran out of fruit with that one!

Do you like Microsoft's hardware moves and does the company have a compelling cloud story? Answers to each equally welcome at

Posted by Doug Barney on 10/12/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 Dan Pennsylvania

I think Microsoft is absolutely green with Apple envy and it is blinding them. Apple has always been a consumer products company while Microsoft has been focused on Enterprise software. Trying to do better in the consumer market and compete with Apple is all well and good, but a lot of people are starting to feel with Windows 8 that this is a Tablet OS that is being forced onto desktops and servers and it doesn't really fit. Apple products are nifty and look nice, but if they don't do what you want them to you're out of luck. Microsoft's strength has always been the developer community and partners building an ecosystem around their enterprise offerings so compelling that it has become the only game in town for serious businesses. I would love to see Microsoft STOP TRYING TO BE APPLE.

Mon, Oct 15, 2012

I disagree here. Apple is closed software, closed hardware and we'll sue you out of existance if you mimc us. No, this is similar to what Google is doing with the Nexus line to give consumers a pure Android experience in a world of fragmented OEM UIs. Windows tablets made by OEMs are boring so Microsoft is offering consumers a more progressive vision. Microsoft is rumored to be considering this in phones but Nokia, Samsung and HTC finally appear to be pumping out flagship models so this may not be needed.

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 Robert MD

I am not sure how Microsoft is flattering Apple. Microsoft has made hardware for years but just not PC's. Actually Microsoft and Apple don't really manufacture anything, they both are outsourcing the actual fabrication to Foxconn in China. I agree with your XBOX observation, it has and remains an excellent source of entertainment that continues to improve with age.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

"my Windows 7 machine goes south when on too long" Really??? I run systems where even the elderly XP boxes run for weeks between reboots.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

In terms of technological advancement and achievement, I wonder if "the cloud" - essentially, an effort to force one and all to pay to access and manipulate information - represents the tipping point...the point when the profit motive became humanity's last and fatal boat anchor. A lot of humanity's "bright ideas" arose as people read books and papers and some past achievement or thoughts inspired a new thought or way of thinking. Many of those are simply going to go away if accessing and browsing data costs.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

What I think is funny is the PC didn't start turning into crap until the component manufacturing was offshored. Now it is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you don't want crap hardware, you have to have a single-board device that limits the number of offshore vendors building failure in. Which in turn paves the way for the computation-as-Ma-Bell-paradigm...oops, I mean "the cloud", wherein the user has a handset but information - and the shape of that information, and absolute control over whether the caller can access that information - resides in the hands of such as Microsoft/Apple/Ma Bell...ooops, AT&T. Who, needless to say, will also dictate the ever escalating cost of that access.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 Chris

It's about time Microsoft started making pc's! Doug you hit this right on the head about Apples successes. Controlling both the hardware and software is more of an advantage than most people realize. Microsoft, I hope, will take another leaf from Apple's book and spend tons of time tweaking firmware and drivers to make their devices as snappy and responsive always.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 Dan Iowa

"Does it make any sense that Windows is now over a quarter of a century old and my Windows 7 machine goes south when on too long, " - Doug, Doug, Doug, I've posted before that I run the same version of Windows that you do. I leave my machine running for a month at a time, only because that's the frequency of patches. Does it not strike you as odd? So let's say that this new path of Microsoft's is going to help you. Do you realize that the only way that they can possibly save you from your download and install habits is by preventing you from installing what you can't seem to stop yourself from installing now? I'm just sayin'...

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

"get lost in a sea of similar objects" - very true. That's why I think it's important for them to open some more Microsoft stores. Also Best Buy doesn't leverage what it has properly, at least from my perspective. For example, they sell Windows Phones and the Xbox, yet these two animals live in different locations in the store. Instead they should place the Windows Phone with the Xbox in a way that demonstrates how they work together. Also the models of Windows Phone I saw there was the Focus Flash which is certainly not as nice as other models. But the Android models are these huge HTC things. So which one would you buy? Anyway, point is that these types of stores just want to move products and it really doesn't matter which.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

Apple wouldn't have been "Apple" for the past decade without the Apple retail stores. If MS just releases tablets and phones into the Best Buy, Costco, Walmart jungle, they will get lost in a sea of similar objects racing to 60% discounts.

Fri, Oct 12, 2012

"my Windows 7 machine goes south when on too long, leaving me to recover all my crashed Office docs" - Really? That's interesting. We run thousands of Windows 7 machines in various envts and pretty much have zero problems. So I'd ask you to clarify exactly what "GOES SOUTH" means? Does it BSOD? If so it's almost certainly a 3rd party driver. Or if it doesn't BSOD, what does it do? Lock up? When you're doing what? Spontaneous reboot with no BSOD and no warning? Details please.

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