The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

Summary: Microsoft versus Apple has long been the marquee rivalry of the technology industry, but the two companies also have a long history as frenemies. Here are their 10 greatest collaborations.

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For over two decades Microsoft and Apple have had the technology industry's most high-profile (and occasionally the most rancorous) rivalry. But today, I doubt that either of them considers the other to be its chief rival.

If you could sequester either Apple CEO Steve Jobs or Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in their office and close the door and ask (off the record) for the name of their top rival, I suspect both of them would give you the same answer: Google.

For that reason alone, you'd think Microsoft and Apple would be more likely than ever to collaborate (and that's certainly a possibility). However, it's also easy to forget that the two companies have a long history of working together and developing products for each others' platforms. They are traditional frenemies.

The fact that Microsoft released Office for Mac 2011 this week (more on that in a second) is only the latest example of times when the two have been on the same page. These are still the exception rather than the rule, but we've come up with a list of the 10 best collaborative moments between the two companies.

You can view this as a slideshow, or below in list form.

10. Microsoft launches Outlook for Mac in Office 2011

With Office for Mac 2011, released on October 26, Microsoft has once again made the Mac OS X version of its world-dominant productivity suite jive a lot more closely with the latest Windows version, after several Mac editions that diverged wildly from their Windows counterparts in recent years. But, by far the most significant part of Office 2011 is that it brings back a version of Microsoft Outlook for email and Exchange syncing, replacing the Mac-specific Entourage (a horribly buggy piece of software). This makes the latest Macs much better equipped to function in the business world.

9. Apple and Microsoft spurn Blu-ray for digital downloads

Both Apple and Microsoft have been under pressure for the last couple years to get on the Blu-ray bandwagon. Microsoft has been under pressure to put Blu-ray in Xbox 360 and Apple has been under pressure to put Blu-ray drives in Macs. However, both have resisted and have responded with the same reason why: Blu-ray is an expensive temporary solution and the future of high definition video is digital downloads. While they may not have consulted each other on this issue, the fact that each has taken up the same position has made it easier for the other to stick to it. And, it's also kept the movie industry from forcing consumers to buy more discs rather than offering the cheaper and more convenient option of digital downloads.

8. Apple makes Safari available for Windows

Steve Jobs once jokingly compared Apple making software for Windows to "offering glasses of ice water to people in hell." A few weeks later, Apple launched a version of its Safari web browser for Windows. Although Safari has never taken off and gained big market share on Windows, it does have a niche appeal to those who like the sparse UI and quick loading times. It also represents one of Apple's most open initiatives, the WebKit browser engine that powers Safari and which Apple refined from earlier technologies and then turned into an open source project that has since been used by Google, Nokia, Palm, BlackBerry, and others.

7. Snow Leopard connects to Exchange

In Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Apple integrated support for Microsoft Exchange into its built-in apps: Mail, iCal, and Address Book. Unfortunately, this required Exchange 2007 or later on the backend and the integration was a little buggy, but it was another step toward making Macs more friendly in the many businesses that are run on Microsoft software in the server room.

6. Boot Camp installs Windows on Mac hardware

In 2006 Apple switched the Mac platform from proprietary PowerPC processors to standard Intel x86 chips -- the same ones that had traditionally powered most Windows PCs. Later that year, the company released Boot Camp, a free utility that allowed Windows XP to be installed on the new Intel-based Mac hardware and dual booted with Mac OS X. (Boot Camp later supported Windows Vista and then Windows 7.) Naturally, Microsoft didn't object because Boot Camp required a Windows license.

5. Microsoft licenses Exchange Activesync for iPhone

When the original iPhone was released in 2007, its primary accomplishment was a touchscreen user interface that made smartphones accessible to more than just the email-junkie professionals who had previously owned BlackBerry and Palm Treo devices. However, the first iPhone was not very useful. It had limited software and it couldn't easily connect to corporate email. Apple fixed both of those problems a year later with version 2.0, the iPhone 3G, by opening up to third party developers and licensing Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft so that iPhone could connect to Exchange email, calendar, and contacts.

4. Microsoft invests $150 million in Apple

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 and soon became the interim CEO, one of the things he emphasized to Apple employees was to stop thinking about the past and Apple's old rivalry with Microsoft and start thinking about the future and how Apple could move forward in bold new ways. At Macworld 1997 in Boston, he sent the same message to Apple fans when he announced a deal with Microsoft that would bring a close to Apple's legal action against Microsoft over Windows, provide a $150 million Microsoft investment in Apple, and bring a multi-year guarantee that Microsoft would continue to develop software for the then-ailing Macintosh platform. To the Apple fans who booed Jobs when he brought in Microsoft chairman Bill Gates via video conference to announce the Microsoft deal, Jobs said, "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose."

3. Internet Explorer becomes the default browser on Mac

As part of that 1997 deal, Apple agreed to make Microsoft's Internet Explorer the default web browser for Mac. At the time, Microsoft was in a pitched battle with Netscape for web browser supremacy. It's easy to forget that Internet Explorer 3.0 for Mac was a decent piece of software at the time, because Microsoft had a lot of engineers working on IE. Later, IE would get a well-earned reputation for being slow, bloated, and buggy, after Microsoft won the browser war and lost interest in it. But, in 1997, having two great web browsers available for Mac (three if you count Mosaic) was a very good thing, especially on the eve of the iMac and lots of new consumers buying computers to connect to the Internet.

2. Apple makes iPod compatible with Windows

A year after Apple debuted the iPod in 2001 as an accessory that it had hoped would buoy Mac sales, the company realized the iPod had much greater mass market potential and decided to make it compatible with Windows computers as well. That development combined with the 2003 opening of the iTunes Music Store selling songs for 99 cents set the iPod on a course to become one of the best-selling consumer electronics products of all time.

1. Microsoft develops Word for the original Macintosh

When Apple developed its forward-looking Macintosh computer in the early 1980s to combat the IBM PC, which was out-pacing the Apple II, Microsoft was one of the early believers in the new vision. Gates took a chance on Jobs' graphical users interface and agreed to be one of the early application developers. The result was Microsoft Word, which would eventually be one of the computing world's most popular applications. Gates said, "One of the most fun things we did was the Macintosh and that was so risky. People may not remember that Apple really bet the company." Of course, the collaboration on the Macintosh also led to Microsoft developing its own competing platform, Windows, which later became the source of the bitter rivalry between the two companies.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Collaboration, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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41 comments
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  • Apple zealots: your leader has spoken

    [i]Jobs said, "We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose."[/i]

    Why you guys don't understand this, I'll never know.
    NonZealot
    • It's rather you...

      And your ilk that don't even notice...
      zkiwi
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        At one point, Wistron also was manufacturing the Xbox 360, thought that no longer seems to be the case.
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        Not every Android device maker is conceding (or seemingly conceding) that Android is violating
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        Microsoft patents. Barnes & Noble is fighting Microsoft in court to avoid paying patent royalties on the Android-based Nook e-reader.
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        Update: A related aside: Microsoft isn?t the only one that B&N is fighting over potential patent
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        royalties, as Bloomberg noted today. It is fighting chipmaker LSI over the Nook, too.
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        I ended last week with a Microsoft news and rumor roundup, and am starting this (short) work week
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        with another. Here are some of the Microsoft news bits making the rounds the day after the Fourth
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        Extended support for Office XP ends on July 11: Yes, it?s true, fans of Office XP
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        (the predecessor to Office 2003)? which Microsoft introduced way back in 2001. Microsoft?s extended
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        support period for Office XP ends as of next week, July 11. (Mainstream support is free support;
        Linux Love
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        @zkiwi an autonomous car that is actually practical. Also, Google is doing something very interesting here in tapping their cloud infrastructure. Notice that they hired engineers from previous automated vehicle competitions - thus funding some bright engineers to keep the technology advancing.
        Arabalar
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        @zkiwi Runtimes like Silverlight and Flash do a least provide some means to estimate the *likely* performance of apps when deployed across different hardware.

        It is true that Microsoft have found a home for Silverlight as the (near) default platform for Windows Phone apps but don't forget that much of Silverlight is based on WPF which, if you attend developer workshops for Windows 7 development, is seen as a preferred platform for client development.

        Update: This is quite an interesting discussion:
        Arabalar
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        @zkiwi There shouldn't be a significant cross-browser gap in 2D rendering performance by the time IE9 is released. Chrome 7 has already been released with GPU-driven 2D acceleration, and Firefox 4's latest betas support it as well.
        Arabalar
      • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

        That development combined with the 2003 opening of the iTunes Music Store selling songs for 99 cents set the iPod on a course to become one of the best-selling consumer electronics products of all time.<a rel="follow" href="http://www.worldwideacademics.com/programs/online-undergraduate-certificate.asp">undergraduate certificate</a>
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    • RE: The 10 greatest moments of Microsoft-Apple collaboration

      @NonZealot You have to admit it's more fun this way... egging on the zealots is a pretty amusing passtime.
      athynz
      • Yes. Yes it is. Looks like I caught one just above you. :) (nt)

        @athynz
        NonZealot
    • and Cue the double standards

      @NonZealot <br><br>Why you don't understand this NZ, I'll never know.
      Tigertank
    • So it's OK for you to take up the opposite position...

      @NonZealot So it's OK for you to take up the opposite position because Bill Gates never said not to. Got it.
      olePigeon