The news that Steve Ballmer is planning to retire from Microsoft within the year is obviously a good time to reflect on what Microsoft is, what it was, what boats it’s missed, and where it continues to thrive.
Basically, it hasn’t had much success on the consumer web, or in mobile, but it’s an absolute beast on key software products, eve if the Windows business is in trouble.
Paul Krugman takes a break from macro stuff to look at the competitive positions of both Microsoft (during its heyday) and Apple now, and concludes that Apple is looking very Microsoftish, if not worse.
Now, unlike Microsoft, Apple isn’t selling an inferior product. But it’s selling products that are little if any better than competitors, at premium prices. How can it do that? Again, network externalties: mainly a much deeper bench of apps, or so I’m told (I actually don’t use many).
So how do the prospects for Apple’s reign look compared with those of Microsoft? Let’s not forget that Microsoft is actually an incredible success story — it maintained its PC lock for decades, and in fact still retains that lock today; it’s just that the market is changing. My casual impression is that Apple’s lock isn’t nearly as secure, in part because it’s relying on the loyalty of individual customers — in contrast to Microsoft, which was largely relying on the loyalty of corporate IT managers, who are inherently more conservative.
Read the whole piece here, wherein he also gets into his own complaints about Apple products.