Just to start things off this month, I feel obliged to remind everyone that, yes, the Zune is still being sold in stores. Anyway, it’s only been a year or so, and we can’t expect it to die off so quickly. After all, Windows CE is still around, having transmogrified into various mutations including the most recent Windows Mobile (append year of beta testing) manifestation. The Zune is assuredly being kicked in the ass by the iPod but, as with other blattodea, is probably still going to be around for a while longer.
Now, I know, I know, it is entirely unfair to compare the Zune with the iPod. After all, Microsoft is not targeting the same demographics with the Zune. While the iPod was designed for, well, everyone, it appears the Zune was made for Microsoft staffers. OK, so not all of them use the Zune, but internal market-share numbers at Microsoft are very impressive. I can almost guarantee that the iPod holds only a niche position within that sliver of a slice of a segment of the world market, and that’s even including the iPods in the disposal bins around campus. So stop comparing apples and orangutans. These are totally separate market segments.
Now, another comparison people like to make is between Vista and Leopard. Doh! Hello, people? When will you learn? Comparing what is essentially Windows NT 2006 with what is essentially Mac OS X 10.5 is just ridiculous. As I mentioned before, the whole point of Leopard is to make computing faster, easier, more productive, and safer for humanity. Vista, on the other hand, is Microsoft helping to pass on that message to the market. It’s all done very subtly. There won’t be a “Go buy a Mac” sticker on the Vista box, but it’s pretty much saying that without being overtly direct. With its big footprint on the computing industry, Microsoft simply cannot be seen in “collusion” with Apple to expand OS X market share. Forget antitrust regulations—the Microsoft shareholders would riot. No, no, no. The company is already doing everything possible to ensure that Apple continues to be a resounding success:
- Making sure anyone who wants to run Vista has to consider buying a whole new computer.
- Making sure anyone who is willing to buy a whole new computer for Vista has to think long and hard about which “edition” of Vista he wants to install.
- Making sure anyone who has actually bought a new computer, actually installed Vista, and is actually running it, wonder what the difference is between it and XP.
- And, of course, making very sure that anyone who is actually using Vista on a brand spanking new computer can fully enjoy his favorite kinds of malware, which is the uncontested cornerstone of the Windows experience.
And it’s not just Microsoft that’s doing this. The PC vendors are also in on the game, everyone working extremely hard to increase Macintosh market share quarter after quarter. I have my hunches (e.g., all these CEOs have huge AAPL positions or something) but, really, I don’t know why they are doing it. It just boggles my mind. But whatever the reason is, “good on ’em!”
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
A few months ago, at the day job, I got assigned a ThinkPad X60 (now produced by Lenovo). I noticed an annoying Message Center alert among various other annoying Task Tray icons. After trying to ignore the little bugger for about three restarts (i.e., on the first day I used this brand new PC), I finally clicked on it.
Because I really have a lot of spare time and zero new messages in my proper e-mail inbox, I was happy to see two mysterious messages I had to read. (Not!)
One of them cheerily suggested that I “Learn how to achieve all-day computing.”
“Do more, save more, and spend more time unplugged with ThinkPad batteries,” it said.
I wanted to just delete it without reading, but being guilty of RTFM non-compliance in recent years, I decided to check out whatever hot tips Lenovo (or whoever had canned these messages) offered, especially since I wasn’t completely familiar with this particular PC’s shade of monochrome (to be fair, there was a fingerprint authentication doodad that I was itching to configure).
So I clicked on the friendly “Learn more…” hyperlink.
Bam! My Web browser launched (thankfully, Firefox was already installed) and loaded up…an E-commerce page on Lenovo’s server where I could purchase a “ThinkPad 56W Ultraportable AC Adapter” (part number 02K6880) or a “ThinkPad 72W Slim AC/DC Combo Adapter” (part number 73P4485).
Scrolling down the page, I noticed there were almost a dozen other screens that I could click on, ostensibly for more great power products I could buy to “Learn how to achieve all-day computing.”
I finally understood: Lenovo’s idea of “all-day computing” was to spend all day mucking around with this crap, and then spend “all night computing” just to catch up on real work. If that’s not putting your PC and Windows to work, I don’t know what is. More bang for the buck, right? Why turn off your computer and spend time with your family and enjoy life, when you can burn the midnight oil with Vista? Isn’t there some kind of metric that says the more you use something the less it actually costs for you? I guess that’s what the PC guys mean when they talk about Total Cost of Ownership. With the Mac, you just do whatever you have to do and turn it off. No opportunity to muck around and waste cycles. Evil!
The most intriguing thing about the “total PC user experience” fiasco is wondering exactly who masterminded it. I am sure the PC vendors (a.k.a. Original Equipment Manufacturers in industry-speak) learn somewhat from Microsoft’s example, but inquiring minds want to know if there’s a secret “black ops” team in Redmond that designs these horrendous hurdles for Windows users to jump. Or maybe there’s no team at all, and the OEMs just naturally and instinctively mimic the “industry leader.”
Contrast all this with the Apple experience and you can see why I say the entire industry is in collusion to ensure that only Apple will prevail. The high-level strategy is working, too. Reports are in that Mac OS X has taken over half of the Japanese OS market. But it’s not a completely fair pilot test because Microsoft skewed results by increasing already-outrageous Vista prices. Unless it intends to do this in other markets to ensure Apple’s success, the Redmond AppleCare master plan might be a bit slower to execute in, say, North America and Europe.
But mark my words. The entire PC industry, spearheaded by Microsoft, is very seriously “thinking different.” So different that I have no idea what it is doing. I just know that people are buying a whole lotta Macs and telling their friends to do the same.
So the next time you add an Apple product to your shopping cart, don’t forget to thank the Windows guys for pointing the way.