3 days as an ex-PC Mac Air user and I’m a starry eyed fanboy. Apple wins. Debate follows…

Wow — what an experience. Seamless, clean, easy & slick.

I posted this on Facebook and got an awesome response that I thought worth sharing as it turned into a great discussion on the future of Microsoft, Apple and the cloud.

[ff Rog42 LeslieCBarry]

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Rog42 As an ex-Senior Microsoft Manager with MacBook Pro (+iPhone & iPad) — Apple Wins. The quality of product, customer delight, and seamless integrated experience is second to none.

Yes, yes, I like Win7, and love my Xbox with Kinect too!! And…

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Anon What took you so long?

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Leslie Barry I stopped drinking the MS Kool Aid around 3 years ago. I noticed that my habits have changed radically over the last few years as I migrate to the cloud. I care less about how the OS works and have less need to manage the nuts and bolts (Windows) as I’ve managed to let go the need to know where, when, how, etc the data and apps are working and doing what they do.

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TH ?+1 Leslie +1 Rog42. 12 months on MBP now and never going back. Just switched from Android to 4GS and thrilled. Bought @MrsH5 a 4GS and Miss 14 an MBP too. Next will get TiVO, though love my PS3/PlayTV combo: great convergent solution. Still want an XBOX so I can find out what all this Halo fuss is about: never played it or even seen that game.

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Leslie Barry This has made the switch to Mac so easy — I was initially resistant to the extent that I bought a Macbook in Jan last year and sold it in July out of pure frustration at not being able to control everything. Now that I can login, do almost everything in the browser, and Google docs etc have matured for business use, all I need is a lightweight, fast machine with connectivity that has a slick interface.

So where does that leave MS in my humble opinion?

Unfortunately, I think they lose. They’ve missed:

  • the cloud boat,
  • the mobile boat,
  • the search boat,
  • the fact that we no longer want an OS that runs apps, just an OS that is a super browser,
  • social media — as in enterprise social media as a collaboration and knowledge management system (watch Salesforce chatter here)
  • open systems — not sharepoint
  • relinquishing control of the enterprise management systems with the cloud wave.

So how do they recover?

1. Get an ‘open’ leader

2. embrace the open systems and open enterprise

3. stop building shit browsers

3. WP7 on Nokia? WTF? 2 dormant giants don’t make an agile pixie

oh, and get the Boxee box with a $6 proxy service to get access to the rest of earth ;-). awesomeness

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Anon MS will never go away…not in our lifetime at least. Every dog has its day, then they simply consolidate and roll along generating good numbers. With growth on last year @ 11.9%. (rev), earnings @ 23.9% and EPS @ 28.1, things are pretty good over there. Our reference points are rather insignificant in the grand scheme (ux, design, interoperability etc). The real tech battles are fought around much larger issues than what we are consumed with (licensing, IP, contracts, distribution etc). In the meantime, we will continue to choose the system that works and understands us best…while the real markets like south America, India, china and south-east Asia will use what is available

P.S. Cannot believe I have been drawn in to a ‘which system is best’ conversation on fB ;-) must be the wine…

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TH Eg Hulu Leslie? Would love that! Rog42 is right though. MS rules the enterprise and cloud devs (just ask @glav at @saasu where cloud .NET rocks)

Leslie Barry Anon me neither — and I’m not a religious techy at all. Just calling what I see. Agree on the enterprise positioning and numbers that MS are delivering are consistently good. Doesn’t mean we (visionaries) cannot challenge them to up their game and stop being fat and lazy. Change happens fast and it’s happening right now. and TH, VUDU is excellent as well as Pandora and BBC, and not sure if agree on the MS Cloud rocks statement. I think MS is slowly losing. I read an excellent analysis recently about how Office 365 is designed to resemble cloud but lock you back into the desktop apps, which is exactly what it is. Not an MS hater at all, but times they are a changin’

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TH By cloud devs I meant MS rocks in their .NET platform and support for engineers in the enterprise space. I don’t rate Azure or O365 (yet) I attended a demo by their global gurus and it was complete fail. B0rked.

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Leslie Barry fair enough — they have a well oiled machine with their dev support

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Anon Large fat lazy organizations will never stop being large fat and lazy…what will be will be. Absolutely there will always be incumbents and challengers, but as smart as we are, smarter people in big organizations like MS will salvage what they can.

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Rog42 Great discussion. I think where Apple success is:
1) staying on (very focused) strategy
2) knowing their customers intimately
3) delighting their customers (as was evidenced by the start of this thread)

MS (& VMware, red hat, oracle, & Google & perhaps HP) are trying to be all things to all people. They’re more concerned about shareholder value than delighted customers. More concerned about “securing the platform” and acquiring developers, than changing the world.

Like Anon says though MS is filled with very smart people, and more to the point makes 95% of their revenue through an ecosystem of over 1/2 a million partners. Neither the people in MS nor the partners will give up their livelihoods easily.

Also like Anon pointed out change happens really fast. I find it interesting that every colleague ex-MS that know has bought a Mac and either an iPhone or android phone. Every one. Many are working for direct competitors. This is not sour grapes, you don’t get IN to MS without a passion for technology, or succeed without a commitment to the platform. It’s more about comparing the technology and finding it better.

Like you pointed out, with the rise of smartphones (mobile), cloud, and social — you’re no longer tied to the PC like ever before.

In fact for home, the only reason to have a powerful PC is for photos, video, Mac has had that market for years, Media (music, movies) Apple, Sony, TiVo and smart TVs rule here, and Games which is the domain of the consoles, and increasingly tablets.

The competition is for apps in the cloud. Can MS convince ISVs to develop on Azure, or will they move to OSS? My take? Both.

Enterpise ISVs with licence revenues tied to MS will be wooed to stay “on platform” and challenger startups will disrupt on OSS.

Bizspark, and webspark will also entice some startups to at least start on MS.

But that’s where we need to focus, help cloud enable ISVs and add offerings like analytics

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David Sexton Couldn’t resist adding a few points of my own. I pretty much agree with the overall points here being:

  1. Apple products, by and large, have a great UX.
  2. As the world goes more web based, the OS is largely irrelevant (or so we currently think).
  3. Microsoft has been slow to the game, preferring to concentrate on the enterprise.
  4. Microsoft tooling for their devs is second to none.

That said, I wouldn’t discount Microsoft just yet. There’s still some pretty cool stuff coming outta Redmond for the consumer (Kinect anyone?). Even WP7 is a pretty solid product.

I think Windows 8 will be a game changer, although not in the short-term. I see it conceptually similar to how .NET changed the tooling that was available to devs. And although it’s a debatable point, fundamentally I’d argue that MS is still successful because they look after their devs.

Win8, and particularly WinRT will likely need another 2 iterations before they are really rocking. The idea of building up native HTML5+JS apps is pretty damn cool but, as anyone who’s tried to build anything more than a trivial demo with VS2011 will tell you, it gets pretty verbose with a good few chained method calls & lines of code spilling all over my IDE. Nasty.

That’s where the parallel gets drawn with .NET — .NET1.0 was hardly used. .NET1.1 gained more traction. .NET2.0 was an instant success. We’re currently heading to .NET5.0 and I’m stoked! If you look at the language changes to C# over the years it’s evolved into a really elegant language. And although there are a ton of frameworks out there for it, it doesn’t suffer from nearly the same bloat that Java does. It makes writing great software easy.

I’m looking at technology from the developer and decision maker perspective and I think MS still has good stuff to offer. For me, the key areas I’ll be watching in 2012 will be:

• Web stack (ASP.NET/HTML5/Node.js)
• Windows 8
• WP7
• XBOX. Kinect + Windows 8 will start changing the way we run our homes.
• Azure. Azure will be the common denominator across most of the above.

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I think the folks on this thread are all pretty sure that cloud based is the way things are heading (myself included). And we’re all smart enough to know that aside from the scalability cloud computing provides, the origins of the cloud concept were as a personal data “cloud” which follows the user wherever he or she goes. Ergo, the cloud is about mobility.

If we think of it like that, we remember that the cloud concept itself is actually platform agnostic. It has strong ties with the dream of a semantic web. There’s a wide enough space for all of the major players.

MS will remain relevant in the cloud. Why? Multiple reasons:
1. The Metro experience is actually pretty good.
2. The device specs Windows 8 will run on are being tightly controlled to ensure great UX.
3. The development experience is easy enough that just about anyone can do it.
4. MS has the cash & resources to do it “right”.

Will they remain as relevant as they were in the 90's? No idea. I’d like to think that as time goes on we’ll see a greater amount of IP collaboration between the big guns, but first we gotta get past the patent wars.

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Rog42 I agree that the cloud is about mobility, but I also think that it’s more than just personal data following a user.

The cloud is also about collaboration, multiple users actually computing together in real-time no matter their location. This has massive significance for enterprise & government.

Also to your point about Win8, is it good? Probably. But it suffers from not being integrated tightly enough. For all the “walled garden” arguments about the Apple Eco-system, the reason their products excel at UX is that tight integration. That’s also btw why the XBox360 is such a compelling product. You simply don’t get the Xbox OS running on any other dodgy OEM’s hw. This means that you can make the OS transparent to the user. The MS digital ecosystem is still way too hard though. Compare media centre, shoe-horned onto Xp, Vista, then Win7, to AppleTV. An elegant device that just works, seamlessly streams from any iTunes client in the house, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod. And when I say seamless, my kids just share from their devices without so much as a code, ip address, or other configuration step.

Finally your point about MS making it easy so “almost anyone” can develop. I’ve heard this argument, and even used it myself for years. I’m not sure, however, that ease of development is what motivates developers. My experience is that non-developers don’t want to develop, period. They struggle to program the remote or PVR. Developers on the other hand are smart. The iOS Dev environment, using Objective C is harder, more tedious, than C# or .Net — the same can be said for the android Dev platform. Yet there are many many more apps for these platforms than for WP7. Y’see smart Devs want to solve a problem, write code, and SELL apps.

So if you decouple Compute and Storage, putting this in the cloud, from Presentation, making PC’s irrelevant — where does this leave Windows?

Azure is the right strategy, but it may be too little too late, and definitely needs to be onshore.

Windows Phone, definitely too late, and needs tighter integration to the HW — one OEM or a MS device like the Xbox/Zune. Having said that, it needs global availability of all services, not the US bigotry that MS consistently displays. Even so I think that it’ll take years and deep investment for MS to catch up with Android/Apple here. And they are still in catch up mode, which puts them about 18 months behind any innovation.

Microsoft will be the IBM of this decade. Once the mighty, but now just another IT company. Still lots of money to be made though :-) and both MS & IBM have the same valuation roughly (as Google) about half that of Apple

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Nice to not have a religious war for a change about Apple vs Microsoft. Do you think Microsoft can pivot fast enough?