For a while now Microsoft has struggled (in relative terms) while Apple has gone from apparent strength to strength. Apple, it seemed, could do no wrong. Then about 18 months ago a few things started to go against Apple. These minor issues have largely been ignored or brushed off as, well, minor but I wonder if Apple may finally be starting to feel the heat from Microsoft?
What has gone against Apple? Here’s my list:
1. Steve’s illness was very badly handled and has shown how critical he is to the success of the company. Microsoft handled Gates departure with some style – even making a quite funny ‘last day at the office video.’ At some point Apple needs to face up to the fact that Steve won’t be around forever and start preparing customers for that world.
2. Microsoft ran a pretty successful ad campaign that showed how expensive Macs were versus a PC. It clearly impacted Apple as they a) cut the prices of their products and b) asked Microsoft to stop running the ads.
3. Microsoft launched Bing. While Bing has a long way to go to topple Google it has achieved some success and has shown that Microsoft can actually compete again. Meanwhile Apple launched Snow Leopard, while it’s a good product various reviewers, including the notable Walt Mossberg at the WSJ were disappointed.
4. Apple has resorted to a very negative ad to address the launch of Windows 7. They wouldn’t have done this if they didn’t believe Windows 7 may well lure some Mac customers back to Windows and of course stem the tide of people like me that moved to the Mac at home and finally at work.
I think if Microsoft wants to knock Apple of its perch as the customer favorite and mindshare leader when it comes to technology it may well be in with a good shot at it. Steve is back at the helm of Apple and I’m sure they’ll usher in some great new products. But Windows 7 has shown Microsoft still has real teeth and could well get a whole bunch of people to feel proud of owning a Microsoft product again.
Bing, the new Microsoft search engine has gone live. I have to confess I’m impressed with the way it works. It looks a lot different to Google, having the various reasons for searching shown on the left of the page. I used its travel functionality today to help out a family friend and it worked very well and certainly saved a lot of time compared to using several travel sites to book a flight. Interestingly I came across Bing because I tried to access Farecast.com and it took me in to Bing. This in itself is a clever move by Microsoft, given I searched on Farecast through Google as I wasn’t quite sure of Farecast was the right name. I’ll confess I’m now tempted to use Bing as my search engine. Being someone who has Google as a part of my toolbar will of course make that a bit harder in the short term. Of course I’ll also be stuck with Google on my iPhone until Bing is offered there. So I’m a convert… sort of.