For decades, Microsoft Windows users were locked in an seemingly eternal debate with fans of Apple’s Macs over who had the superior platform — a conflict spurred by the very public rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Around the mid-aughts, things eventually settled out into kind of a stable duopoly, as Apple found its niche as the makers of premium hardware for the culture-conscious, and Windows PCs earned a rep as the computer of the mainstream, especially for gamers and office workers.
Apple opened the door for users to install Windows on Macs, and Microsoft made truckloads of cash selling Office and its associated services on iPhone and iPad. It was all quiet on the PC front, as the battle moved to the smartphone.
But now, after years of stability, change is on the horizon in the PC market. Former Apple lovers, including myself, are starting to reconsider Windows. And hardware like the Microsoft Surface Studio PC, Eve V laptop/tablet hybrid, and Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is getting people excited about computers again.
It’s a huge renaissance for Windows, coming at a time when Apple fans feel like the company is treating the Mac like an afterthought. Don’t just take my word for it: Over the weekend, my friend Owen Williams wrote a piece entitled “Why I left Mac for Windows: Apple has given up,” which really says it all.
And on Monday morning, The Verge’s Dan Seifert published a story called “The desktop PC is finally cool,” in light of the great strides that companies like Dell and HP have made in building interesting, extremely cool non-portable PCs. Recently, Microsoft hinted that it’s winning over high-end Apple customers, too.
A window closes, a window opens
The changing perception speaks to the great strides that Microsoft has made under CEO Satya Nadella. Windows 10 is considered one of Microsoft’s best operating system updates in years, with a strong focus on versatility and easy of use in both touchscreen and traditional PC modes.
And Microsoft promises to keep updating Windows 10, constantly refining the operating system with cool new forthcoming features like the video game-improving Game Mode. The OS was pretty good to start with, and it’s just getting better.
Apple, by contrast, has yet to ship a Mac with a full touchscreen and is instead positioning the iPad Pro tablet as a laptop replacement (which is ironic since the iPad Pro itself was clearly inspired by Microsoft’s own Surface Pro tablet). For Mac users who want a touchscreen, Apple gave a consolation prize of sorts with the “Touch Bar,” a strip of controls above the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard that has received mixed reviews.
Some Apple fans are also getting annoyed at the fact that new MacBooks are focused on slimness and battery life, rather than the processing power or even the device ports they need to get work done. Whether or not this change in focus will pay off for Apple is still up in the air, but it’s definitely alienating die-hards.
Apple is far from doomed, but there is a sense that the tide is turning: Macs are no longer the unimpeachable gold standard in computing. And Microsoft and its partners are exploiting that vulnerability to great effect.