Microsoft vs. Apple: Beware of your 'killer instinct'

Microsoft vs. Apple: Beware of your 'killer instinct'

Summary: Is Apple is putting such a big hurt on Microsoft that Redmond should retarget Apple and pull the plug on its Macintosh Business Unit? That's what some blogsters are saying. What are they smoking?


Is Apple is putting such a big hurt on Microsoft that Redmond should retarget Apple and pull the plug on its Macintosh Business Unit? That's what some blogsters are saying. What are they smoking?

According to my ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow, Microsoft must get its groove, or "killer instinct" back. So far, so good. But then he goes afield:

In fact, given the current economy, and the stress that Microsoft is now under to retain market share and preserve its bread and butter business — Windows and Office — that maybe it is time for the company to reconsider whether or not operating a Macintosh Business Unit is really such a good idea.

We’ve all heard about the supposed obsession that Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer has had for “Killing Google.“ I think that energy is misdirected — they should be focusing their efforts on Killing Apple instead and hurting them in their worst time of crisis. I know, it’s a reptilian, bloodthirsty, and horrible thing to propose — to pick on Apple when Steve Jobs is sick and everyone is worried about whether or not the company can weather the economic downturn with its luxury products. Exactly. I propose that you return to doing what you do best, Microsoft — being bloodthirsty.

Wow, there's so much wrong here, it's hard to know where to begin. Let me offer just a few counterpoints to this thesis:

First, the big problem with Microsoft is Microsoft, it's not Linux, or Google, or Apple. It's all about creating realistic strategic and product plans and then executing on them. This is something that Apple and IBM appear to know how to do and Microsoft doesn't. Vista, anyone?

At the same time, Perlow presents an interesting view into Microsoft's corporate culture. In the corridors of Redmond, it's all about "us versus them," with "them" being the target of the month, year or decade: Apple, Oracle, IBM, Google, Netscape, the EU, whomever.

When acquaintances have gone to work at Apple, I've noticed that after a few months, they would incorporate the infamous "reality distortion field," which is name for the corporate culture in Cupertino. It's the idea that Apple is the center of the universe, and if that's over-reaching, then at least Apple is the center of the technology market.

The same would happen to buddies who went to work at Microsoft. After a few months they would talk as if Microsoft and their department were under attack, that the company was Number 2 in the market and not the de facto monopoly that it is.

Going "reptilian, bloodthirsty" would take advantage of the paranoid corporate culture already in place at Microsoft.

Next, who knew that the Mac had so much pull? No doubt, the return of the Macintosh is an amazing story. However, let's put that success into context.

According to the latest Net Applications statistics, the Mac has a 9.93 percent market share and Windows has 88.26 percent. Now, for those of us who remember when Apple was under 4 percent, that's a tremendous climb. Still, Microsoft holds a veto-proof market share.

Perlow then brings up the "distraction" argument.

How much revenue and resources does operating a Mac Business Unit cost Microsoft? I would imagine that given the current climate, it’s a huge distraction. Those 200-odd employees could be put to work doing other creative projects for the company, in the advancement of Windows and improving other Microsoft products, instead of helping to improve Apple’s market share and making life easier for the users who chose to seek out a different platform than their own. How many Windows systems does Microsoft lose to Apple every year because Mac has their own version of Office as a viable alternative? I’m going to say a lot.

There are many parts to this claim of "distraction," both internal and external to Microsoft.

Certainly, the small Mac Business Unit can't be a distraction to Microsoft. The group is located down in the Silicon Valley, and mostly does its own thing, making a real Mac product.

Mac users would point out that the Mac version of Office is always behind the Windows' flavor in the compatibility department (beyond the .DOC/.DOCX problem). For example, a few years ago, Apple's Keynote could interpret PowerPoint files better than the then-current version of Office for the Mac.

Check out Microsoft improves Exchange sync in new Entourage Beta.

According to Perlow, the coders working on Windows Office are distracted by the demands of the Mac group. Impossible.

Are there so few programmers around and about that Microsoft can't get its work done? That isn't the problem.

Actually, Microsoft spent the 1990s poaching programming talent from Apple. Most of these coders were not folded into the Macintosh Business Unit, rather, they were sent around the company.

Now, I've always considered that Microsoft's support for the Mac has been a legal shield, to somehow prove to the world that the company isn't out to crush its competitors. The Mac BU would be worth the cost if it could let Microsoft avoid even one extra round of antitrust investigations. But the reality is that the Mac Business Unit makes a solid profit.

Mac users seeking compatibility with Microsoft applications can run the Mac version of Microsoft Office and even Windows. They pay extra for this level of confidence in compatibility.

If Microsoft pulls the plug on its Mac Business Unit, Mac users will still be able to run Windows and Office apps, albeit in a virtual machine. But it's all very easy. Or they can continue to try out the growing alternatives to Microsoft's productivity platform.

I'm not saying "bring it on." But it seems to me that the end result for Microsoft — and perhaps the worst possible outcome — would be the discovery by users that they really don't need to be running Windows or any Microsoft platform product.

Redmond: Make sure that your "killer instinct" isn't pointed at your own foot.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Hardware

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  • Microsoft vs. Apple

    Microsoft would be nuts to try that again. The DOJ would be all over them if they did.
    • DOJ

      ...might just let the convicted monopolists go scot-free again, like they did last
      time. It's sickening, a travesty.
    • This article is silly since MSFT sells software, and Apple sells hardware

      Most journalists are sensationalist. Or else they would have nothing to talk about.

      Who cares what market share this or that BS?

      Well obviously the underdogs with only 9.93% of market share. Whoopy doo! No publicity is bad publicity. The point is to get talking about Apple, good or bad, to put it right into the people's faces, worse, shove it down people?s throats.

      Another way of looking at it:

      For a company founded in 1976, 33 years ago, achieving a mere 10% market share seems ludicrous and a complete failure. PERIOD.

      According to this flawed article, the rest only accounts for 1.81% ? I bet you there are more real Linux/Unix/FreeBSD install than Apple Mac OS X installed. But how do you take a census of something which has 100+ flavors and is freely downloadable from day one?

      As well, licensed vs illicit # of copies of Windows can't figure into the census either.

      What about regular users who purchase one copy of Windows, and propagate it onto all their PCs?

      Has anyone looked at the size of the PC parts market?

      How many motherboards manufacturers exist?

      How many enthusiasts build their own PCs?

      iPod is a mere MP3 player. iPhone is a mere ?smart phone?. Lots of companies make phones.

      What?s the real innovation, ?center of technology? ?

      Apple is the center of hype and BS that it is.

      All style, no substance, hyped up as ?premium? with correspondingly selling price?

      OS X is mere BSD (FreeBSD) available for regular PC back in 1992.

      Come on people. Don?t act like a bunch of stampeding and stupid horses running into the cliff, just because it?s a fad, and the superficially cool thing to do.

      Anyway, a Mac PC is a standard PC using x86 processors running x86 Operating Systems. So what? Better in what way? OS X? Gimme a break!


      Want to experiment with OS X? Why not build your own 4 core Intel x86, 4GB RAM, overclock it, for less than $500 from, including a licensed Windows x64 (64-bit)?

      Freely available and widely known recommendations from the Internet-at-large by simply googling the term 'hackintosh': Results 1 - 10 of about 1,300,000 for hackintosh. (0.09 seconds):

      Just for educational and evaluation purposes of course!
      • Failure?

        [i]For a company founded in 1976, 33 years ago, achieving a mere 10% market share seems ludicrous and a complete failure. PERIOD.[/i]

        I would like to achieve as much failure as Apple.

        Oh and you might just want to check this out,

        Notice FileMaker, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple Inc.

        Which begs the question: If Apple wholly ownes a subsidiary that sells only software is Apple just selling hardware? and I am looking to move my X-Box operating system "software" onto a new piece of hardware, one I don't have to buy from Microsoft. Perhaps something like a 4 core Intel x86, 4GB RAM, overclocked, for less than $500 from could you help me with that?

        • A few points

          Your assumptions appear to be quite flawed, If filemaker produced and sold all software for apple, then yes apple would only be selling hardware, however they do not.

          as for the X-Box you are able to run this through an emulator, but not natively, this is due to the logical unit not being available separately, unlike apple who use a Intel based system which is widely available for a much cheaper price.

          on a side not please go back and read the original post, and think this time.
          • Taking your own advice

            Perhaps YOU should take your own advice and go back an read this
            First, it does not matter if Filemaker makes all software for Apple or
            just one product. It is logically irrelevant to the point being made. The
            point being made was not that Apple, ONLY sold hardware, it is that
            Apple is NOT just a hardware company. This is supported by this
            Second, the comment about the XBOX was in reply to a point by the
            OP and was CLEARLY sarcastic. That said, the "logic unit" of the XBOX
            is merely a PowerPC derivative, and could adequately replaced by a
            PPC with some software tweaks, PPC chips are also widely available
            cheap. if someone with some fortitude decided to do the work. The
            issue is practical, not technical.
          • Probably should have...

            Unfortunately I have never really been able to grasp text sarcasm, my post appears to be in error.

            You make some good points, but my point was more towards the face you cannot run Xbox software on a $500 PC, and while PowerPC chips are cheap, so are Xboxs.
          • PowerPC ="s PPC. (NT)

  • Just because you discover a killer instinct or

    re-discover one does not mean the other side will loose their
    killer instinct.

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • True, but at the same time it does

      put the fight back on, and the other side that may have enjoyed some slight advantages has to "take it up a notch" themselves, usually becoming quite more bloodied in the process then they had in the past.
      • It would only serve to make both better as it

        should be and it every should have been.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
        • How capitalism works

          Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. This is an oft-repeated
          myth of capitalism, that it per se leads to the best possible product at
          the lowest possible cost, The market is littered with the bones of the
          exceptions, chief amount these Betamax, which was far and beyond
          superior to VHS. And before we start throwing around accusations of
          socialism, even Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalist theory,
          warned of exactly this phenomenon.
          The problem here is that if they are competing on features with a
          long-sighted customer base, this MIGHT work out as you claim.
          However, if one company prevails not because the market evaluated
          the products and made an informed decision, but rather triumphed
          through superior (or underhanded) business practices, such as
          marketing, this whole assumption falls apart. It is often not the best
          product that prevails, it is the one with the catchiest commercial.
          MS has a bad track record here. They tend to win a market not
          through superior quality and features, but rather through cut-throat
          business tactics. This however, can backfire, as it most likely would
          here, for reasons already pointed out by others.
          • RE: How Capitalisim Works

            Your views on "the problem" are missingh the basics. "Capitalist" Philosiphy requires competition, that's been dead for quite some time. The Government has allowed the Tech Industry to buy up and and destroy it's competition because for years the government and department of justice didnt understand what it was looking at. So it didn't know how and when to apply anti-trust laws and when it did figure it out it was already too late.

            Example, Microsoft makes and sells Operating systems. No one else makes and sells operating systems. Apple makes and sells PC's but not OS's but for some reason everyone compares the two because as long as they do no notices the elephant in the room. Microsoft's Monopoly.
          • Huh?

            First, capitalist philosophy does not require competition, it only
            provides a means to its efficiency. Also it is not quite true that
            competition is dead. Both Linus and OSX are making headway. OSX
            marketshare has increased 250% in the last two years, and market
            footprint, a far more valuable number, has increased even more.
            Granted the Justice Department dropped the ball.

            Also, your comment on Apple and OSes makes no sense, Of course
            Apple makes OSes. And sells them. A significant chunk of OSX revenue
            comes from upgraders. And MS has from time to time made PC
            hardware. Although they are different beasts, it is no where near as
            apples and oranges as you are making it out to be.
          • Capitalism? What's that?

            Jan. 20, 2009 was The Day Capitalism Died.
          • Not quite

            It is the day a moron moved to Texas.
          • Actual 'Capitalism' funds All the other 'isms'...

            and chooses, at will, when to apply credit squeezes or create financial
            or banking chaos. Read '<b>None Dare Call It Conspiracy</b>' by
            Gary Allen. You'll then better understand terms like nation building
            and the obvious opposite.
            Clearly then, wherever so-called governments borrow money from
            banks to fund their daily work, they are beholden to the terms of the
            loans they are offered. The terms the IMF, World Bank, etc., offer are
            often expressed as government policy or statutes.
            This means that politics, in most countries, most of the time, is a one
            horse race (no matter the number of jockeys). Because the political
            parties are funded by... guess who? Read the book.
            And taxes are usually raised to just pay the interest on these loans.
            That is why the national debt keeps rising.
            These so-called bail-out packages are really intended to harm
            economies and may well bankrupt many countries (again). What then?
            Google Gerald Celente... wise men hope for the best and prepare for
            the worst. Listen to the interview on dailymotion.<p></p>
            The best of luck to you all.

          • misinformed and meaningless

            Sorry, but your post is, as the heading says, misinformed and
            First, I don;t need to purchase anything from amazon to understand
            nation building or macroeconomics, thank you very much. Save your
            condescension for someone more easily impressed.
            Second, your post seems to make lots of points without actually saying
            much of anything besides "buy this book."
            Third, what little it does say implies an oversimplification of the
            economic principles involved to the point of being absurd.
          • As for Gerald Celente

            What a load of hyperdogmatic, Libertarian claptrap. So let's see, what
            are Gerald's (self-proclaimed) credentials? He has a website. He writes a
            blog. He publishes a newsletter. He was assistant to the secretary of the
            NY state senate (a glorified page. This job could be done by high school
            students.) Oh, and he ran an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in Yonkers.
            And he is an authority how exactly?
            As for the content of his message, he is on record as predicting $2000
            an ounce gold prices, Great Depression style food lines in the next few
            years, and a successful secessionist movement in the US. I'll let people
            form their own opinion.
          • I'm just curious

            I know this isn't the main point of your post, but I'm always amazed when people say Betamax was better. Their tapes weren't long enough! How is that better?