It’s a love/hate relationship, me and ol’ Microsoft. Goodness knows I’ll never leave her, but sometimes she can be so aggravating! I could never bring myself to jump ship for the pretty, glitzy, expensive, exclusive (pretentious?) alternative of Apple, but MS could certainly learn a thing or two about clear messaging, marketing and cohesive software and hardware products from their thorn-in-the-side competitor. So, sold as I am on the idea that Microsoft may one day get it’s act together, I will comfort myself in a bit of griping about the way things otta be in the meantime. This is going to be a two-part post…the first focusing on some key differences, as I see them, between the two companies, and the second focusing on some of the challenges I’ve had while trying to traverse the wide spectrum of awesome products MS puts out.
First off, I should tell you a little bit about myself. I see myself as an advanced technology end-user. I’m not a developer but I can generally navigate myself through the ins and outs of computer-land pretty danged well, if I do say so myself. As many of you will remember, I felt a strange need to build a small computer and mount it to my motorcycle for a short jaunt up to the Arctic. Computer guts don’t scare me.
A brief description of my techno-stable: I have a dedicated server machine with a virtual server running my DHCP, etc. I have a gigabit switch, 802.11n router, Skype phone (actually called the iPhone, ironically enough), network hard drive, and six other computers in my house that get decently routine use for different, unique purposes (four of which I built). I have two Pocket PC’s, a Zune, a digital camera that shoots HD video, a Wii, and and old school Xbox. I use Microsoft Live Mesh, Writer, Maps and whatever new free product that comes out…from MS, Google, or anyone else that can put out a good free product. Writing all of this out shouldn’t be taken as boasting, mind you…more of an admission. I’m fascinated by technology, probably to a point. I’m pretty sure that all of the above, though meant to simplify life, has actually had the opposite affect…but I can’t help it, my mind is wired this way. Ok, enough about me…back to the topic…
Let’s look at what Apple does right. Apple sells good, pretty, reliable hardware (albeit at a premium) that just plain works. They tightly control the software that runs on that hardware which minimizes conflicts and, in turn, keeps thinks working. Because they make all of their own hardware everything works together exceptionally well. Files look, sound, open, save and close the same on everything Apple puts out. And, finally, Apple flat out markets, markets, markets. Think about it…if you don’t own an iPod, what do you own? What do you call it? It’s like people calling soda “Coke”, or facial tissue “Kleenex”. For all intents and purposes, iPod = MP3 player and digital media player. Watch TV or movies? What kinds of computers and iPods…um, MP3 Players, do you see people using? It’s always Apple…always. It’s not just a product or brand, it’s a symbol. Oh, you work in graphics, music, video or any other kind of media field?…you have a Mac, right? Why? Because Mac’s are better at media applications. Wait…really? Ask Average Joe about this and they will be quick to tell you that Macs are indeed better at media applications and slow at telling you what actu ally makes a Mac better…it just is…everyone knows that. Mac’s may have been better a while back but no longer. Are the media applications on a Mac easy to use and “sexy”? Heck yes! Intuitive, easy and fun to use. Bingo! Apple wins. I mean, come on…their stores are even pretty! (And I can’t seem to get those catchy iPod commercial songs out of my head!) All this isn’t to say that Macs are all looks and no brains or brawn…far from it, they are exceptional machines that can crank out a wonderful, creative product. But could you put out an equally quality product from a Windows or Linux machine for a much smaller investment? Of course!…and you would have the freedom to use whatever piece of software you wanted in the process. Ok, before I spend the entire post talking about Apple, let me get back to Microsoft…
What does Microsoft do well? They create great products for developers and advanced users. They create great products for entry level po’ folks that can’t pony up for an Apple, even though they would really like to. And, here’s a little secret…they make great products (through third-party companies like Sony, Dell, Gateway, etc.) for everyone else in between. They even make iPods…um, MP3 players. They’re called Zunes, and in many reviews they’ve been rated higher than iPods…you didn’t know that? Strange… Which gets me to something that Microsoft does extremely poorly. Marketing…actually, let’s just say communication in general. They’re the applicant that has an incredible resume that you never end up reading because they have ketchup on their tie and haven’t shaved or showered in a few days…(and the next applicant over looks professional, interesting, exciting and new…who cares what they know or can do…they’re hired!). Had the average consumer heard of 3G before the iPhone? I’ve had 3G Windows Mobile devices for quite a few years. (Again, I’m not bragging about this…just showing how poorly Microsoft and AT&T did with communicating their product and how well Apple did with communicating theirs). Why does MS have such problems making they’re products sexy…alluring…desirable? And don’t tell me about the Mojave Experiment…sure, it’s clever, but it doesn’t make me want to pop Microsoft headphones in my ears and cruise the New York Metro in my indie-wear. (Although, as a result of the Mojave Experiment, I now know that I can control my kid’s tv and internet viewing hours…I guess I just need a kid now.)
Alright, so I think this concludes the rant section of my two-part post. I hope you’ll come back and finish up the rest of it, when it’s posted, as the second part is why I started typing all of this in the first place. I’m going to get back to noodling around with Windows 7 now…]]>