Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Microsoft Becomes Just a Little More Like Apple

While Microsoft has only just begun fighting the perception problems surrounding Windows Vista, the company is already thinking and planning way beyond its latest operating system. We all know that Windows 7 will build on top of the foundations laid by Vista, and that it will include a fancy multitouch framework (and a mysterious new taskbar). According to Microsoft, Windows 7 is still on track for January 2010, and in a memo to his employees, CEO Steve Ballmer outlined some interesting new approaches the company might try with Windows 7 - including being just a little more like Apple.

It is a more or less generally accepted fact that Apple ‘has it easy’ when it comes to developing certain parts of its operating system when compared to Microsoft. While the former needs to address a mere handful of hardware configurations, the latter has to provide support for a more or less infinite amount of possible hardware combinations. Apparently, Steve Ballmer agrees with this, and notes in his memo that Microsoft’s commitment to providing choice (when it comes to hardware, I assume) interferes with the company’s ability to provide a decent user experience.

In the competition between PCs and Macs, we outsell Apple 30-to-1. But there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience. Today, we’re changing the way we work with hardware vendors to ensure that we can provide complete experiences with absolutely no compromises. We’ll do the same with phones - providing choice as we work to create great end-to-end experiences.

What that exactly means remains to be seen, but we can be pretty sure Microsoft wants to at the very least prevent the utter disaster where loads of OEMs created sub-standard hardware that simply wasn’t cut out for running Vista, or where Microsoft itself marked computers Vista-capable, while in fact they were barely Vista-possible. Some Apple/Mac websites even go as far as to say that Microsoft will “mimic the experience offered by the Mac maker”, but I don’t believe we’ll see Microsoft coming out with computers themselves, or even reference boards. A firm tightening of a possible “Windows 7 capable” campaign seems a lot more feasible.

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