Apple vs. Microsoft - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Or why a lot of people consider Apple to be the good guy and Microsoft the bad guy

By on August 11th, 2009 06:40 GMT
If you are a computer user, you must have been caught, at least once, in a battle of opinions between two different sides: Apple fans vs. Microsoft fans. The fact that the latter’s user base is much larger than the former’s means that it has a huge army of potential fans to fight for it in this battle.

But what Apple users lack in numbers, they definitely make up in determination, and the “fanboy” stamp almost always associated with them seems to suggest that they are doing a very good job in fighting the Apple vs. Microsoft battle for the Cupertino-based company.

I do know this article touches a very controversial subject, but somebody has to do it. The thing that you should remember while reading this piece is that it contains my own opinions on this matter and everyone is entitled to their own version of the story.

Along the years, I have observed and thought about lots of facts related to this brand war and, now, Microsoft is still winning the battle. Although it might not do so because it offers its users the best products (anyone remember the Vista fiasco?), it certainly does it with its sheer market presence.

The Good Guy

Why is Apple usually seen as a representative of good? Why does it always seem to get out of any ugly situation, with everybody thinking happy thoughts about it? Someone said that “Being smart means you are going to have a successful carrier, but good looks are a sign that you will also get to the top a lot faster.” Could this also hold true for companies?

Whatever anyone tells you, Apple is a hardware company, and it is quite good at what it does (and some of you may argue that it is actually the best). As Bill Gates said in an interview, the thing that he mostly missed during the process of building a successful company was Steve Jobs’ good taste. And that, as you might have figured out, means a lot coming from someone that not long ago was the man behind Apple’s direct competitor on the OS market.

Another point scored by Apple is its quality as a hardware company. Even more, because its OSes do not have a very big chunk of the market and its building and selling iPods for a very long time, many people tend to forget that it also deals with software.

This means that the same people will only think of it as just another hardware company with no direct and/or significant involvement in the software market. And all this despite the fact that Jobs says any time he gets the chance that Apple prides with its ability to create highly functional software products (as an example given by Steve himself, the iPods would have never been what they are now without the software that runs on them).

The large portion of the portable multimedia player market that the iPods are enjoying right now and Apple seen as a hardware-only company have definitely shifted the positive mark made on people by the device itself onto the whole company.

If you do not agree with me, just think of the huge gap between how much of the OS market Apple currently has and the market share its iPods have conquered. Now that you have thought about it, where are the bigger numbers: the Mac users or the iPod users? I will always put my money on the latter.

The last thing I consider to be of utmost importance when people decided that Apple was a “good” company is the dedicated hardware it sells together with its OS. Pairing the hardware with the OS seems to have brought Apple’s product one of the qualities other OSes lack: a user experience to talk about to your friends.

Although many have tried to see why OS X users are some of the highest satisfied customers on Earth, no one has come up with a formula, yet. One thing is certain though, Apple’s catchphrase describes it best, “It just works.”

If you think about it for a while, you will reach the same conclusion as I have. How many things could go wrong if you have one OS and just a couple of platforms to make it work perfectly on? I will tell you: the number is very close to zero.

And, in case it happens, how quick can a problem be solved? Considering the limited hardware configurations Apple has to think about when dealing with a bug in the OS and its quick Software Update system, you will discover that the reaction time cannot be anything but fast.

Now, you do the math: very good user experience, close to zero OS bugs, and fast reaction times for fixing whatever comes up. Wouldn’t you be a happy customer?

The Bad Guy

Why do most people have only bad things to say about Microsoft? Does it deserve to always be the bad guy? I think not, and I will tell you why.

First, remember the dedicated hardware Apple enjoys when having to develop OS X for their customers? This is not the case here. Microsoft has been “blessed” with an enormous number of hardware combinations to think of when developing even the tiniest and least important piece of its OS. If you think about it, the hardware combination possibilities are almost endless and Microsoft is the one that has to make sure that its OS runs on each of them.

Do countless bugs and problems emerge from this huge diversity of machines that Windows runs on? Of course, and this is one thing that will make Windows users cringe and look to their OS X-using friends where everything is so easy going. Bad user experience has and will always be a thing Microsoft has to consider; despite this fact, it still appears to have the biggest part of the market.

I guess bad experience is not such a big problem after all for users that still want to build their machines from ground up and not being limited by a hardware configuration imposed by the company behind the OS they want to run.

Another reason why Microsoft is seen in such a bad light is, according to the company itself, the fact that many Windows users do not have original copies of the OS. Regarding these pirated copies, the Redmond-based giant says that bug incidents are in greater numbers when compared with official copies. I do not know whether that is entirely true but, considering the fact that pirated OS copies have parts of code written by other people to make the OS work in “no annoyance mode,” it might be right.

In counterpart of the Apple hardware-only company discussion, let us now analyze the Microsoft software-only company subject. In spite of the fact that the latter is also involved in the hardware market, the fact that its OS has the biggest chunk of the respective market automatically makes people think of it as a software-only company.

Why is this bad for Microsoft and why has it ruined its reputation in the eyes of so many people? Because, whilst Apple profits from the status of “hardware-only company” and gets the love from all iPod users all around the world, the former will, most of the time, be criticized for the problems its users encounter while using its OS.

In the middle of Windows blue screens, software infecting the operating system with bugs because of incompatible drivers and whatnot, people tend to forget that Microsoft also makes great hardware and its Office suite is the industry standard in the world.

The Ugly

The ugly side of this story is the misconception most people have about the Redmond-based company: it represents the evil and that will not change. Why do they think that way? Mainly because Microsoft decided that proprietary software was the way to go. While Apple’s customers think they are paying money only for the hardware, and the OS comes free, Microsoft’s customers know what they are paying for.

When an Apple user finds a bug, he/she lets Apple know about it and waits for a fix to come via the Software Update system. After all, its OS is “kind of” free and worked like a charm from day one and the company will issue a fix in no time.

The Microsoft user, on the other hand, will feel cheated on and not working with an OS worthy of its money - an operating system in which bugs show their ugly heads from where he/she least expects it, driver incompatibilities and other small annoyances that make things even worse. And this is where the ugly originates from: the maker getting its customers’ money and not always being able to deliver on its promise.

As Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, said in an interview for Linux Magazine, “the Microsoft hatred is a disease.” Let us analyze why he stated that. Linus gave that interview in response to Microsoft’s move to submit about 20,000 lines of code to the Linux kernel for enhancing “the performance of the Linux operating system when virtualized on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V or Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V.”

According to Torvalds, the Redmond-based company is only pursuing the same objective anyone developing software, open source or not: coming up with something to help you in achieving your goal. Open source developers want to obtain tools to help them (and others) in the development process. Microsoft just wants the Linux OS to work better on its virtualization products, and thus have more satisfied customers that will be willing to pay the money for tools that work as they should.

This being said, why should anyone hate a company that is in it for the money? Don’t all companies do that?

I for one think that Microsoft should be admired for what it has built throughout the years, using a business theory its direct competitor on the OS market also employs: make a product as good as possible and sell it to get money. Unfortunately for the Redmond-based company and its reputation, it did not think all the angles before going in: it forgot about the hardware part.

The Truth

This is my proposal: Microsoft fans should try using a Mac before bashing Apple, the latter’s fanboys/fangirls should wait until OS X has enough market share to face serious security risks and/or Apple decides to license its operating system and make it portable to a lot more hardware platforms (and also leave the door open to bugs and incompatibilities). After taking that step, you may see the entire picture.

Think about this: Microsoft brought to the table diversity and Apple good looks, ease of use and stability. They both cover areas that suit their customers’ interests and I believe people should just get over misconceptions and acknowledge the fact that using their products at their full capacity should be the end goal.

Having a dual boot machine is not such a bad thing if you consider the fact that it incorporates the best of what both companies have. And, if Apple decided to make its OS compatible with other non-Apple branded machines (and probably also go the way of the Dodo as some people think in such a case), you might also be able to choose the best of what the hardware market has to offer.

Think about that before starting to bash Apple and/or Microsoft. As always, you are all invited to continue the discussion in the comments if you feel you have to leave your own mark on this subject.

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