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Strategic Intent — Microsoft is Not the Devil

April 19, 2009

I blog for Intel on a Retail Edge website that’s focused on a specific audience. I just did a post on strategic intent there, and I thought it might be interesting to modify the post for here.

We’ve already been doing some comparisons on quality and ease-of-use between PC and Mac, and Lynn’s covered some Linux OSS stuff as well. While our maturity level here is low, we’ve yet to devolve into a rant on Microsoft being the evil empire or anything. We’ll save our abuse for when we show up to Redmond and heap it in private. Microsoft has done an amazing job over the years of meeting its strategic intent in this particular area.  It’s kept a laser focus on it.

Back in the DOS days, Microsoft established itself as a provider of operating systems to personal computers that weren’t made by IBM.  Big Blue had its own DOS, and Microsoft had rights to produce it more widely, enabling the start of the horizontal PC market that we all love today. Many people forget, but Microsoft and IBM worked together on OS/2, Windows, and NT.  I’m glossing over a lot, but you get the point.

Microsoft pursues a strategy of enabling software for the masses. Go check out a Microsoft validation lab some time. There are thousands of different machines with different configurations that have to be tested with the software to ensure there are no bugs. If anything, this task has gotten harder over time as the marketplace has expanded. Their tactics and actions are all focused on maintaining that mass appeal.

Apple has a different intent. They are focused on providing a higher-level experience to a much smaller audience with more specific requirements. A PC OEM with a similar intent referres to “skimming the cream” from the market, which I believe Apple does in spades. Apple has done a great job in the past identifying a customer base and satisfying those needs. The configurations are limited enough that they can get away with things like changing the underlying system architecture… twice!

Enter Linux. There are many vendors, but if you do an average, what you find is that Linux is looking to split the difference. The vendors for the most part are not focused on the masses. The audience is more focused, more sophisticated, and is willing to do some work. At the same time, there are a huge number of devices and systems that need to be supported, and the validation and patching is pretty extreme.

I’m over word count again. But I thought it important to get this down for discussion. Looking at the intent and refining it is important long-term to understanding where it’ll go from there.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Fister permalink*
    April 20, 2009 4:24 pm

    Hey, Tim, Lynn did a post a while back on thoughts about what Apple really intended…

    Apple has clearly always been focused on their own world, and that goes beyond OSX. Just look at iPhone and iPod, and even back to Newton. The fact that they haven’t really won IT yet is more based on IT’s desire to have a load that’s locked enough to maintain, but one that’s not so locked you can’t find another vendor to choke. Just my opinion.

  2. April 20, 2009 3:57 pm

    Was it Apple’s intent to be a niche market player or did they decide to make the best of their “chimp” status by focusing on the creative and education verticals? I remember a Steve Jobs speech where he said that their biggest MSS obstacle was corporate IT (while holding his index finger to to the tip of his thumb in the shape of an orifice…). Now some corporate IT depts are lossening their grip on hardware specifications and letting employees pick their own system. See the Fortune article below for details…

    If this trend becomes widespread Apple could make gains in the corporate segment…

  3. Lynn Comp permalink
    April 19, 2009 10:45 pm

    Something interesting that is common about Apple and MSFT is that the technologies they’ve largely been wildly successful at have usually been pioneered by someone else…so to some extent neither are technology innovators in the truest sense (not like PARC or Digital would have been described). iPod was hardly the first MP3 player, and I’m not sure it was the first flash based player. iPhone wasn’t the first phone concept with touch, but it was the first to be successful. I think Apple is more innovative in putting concepts together in a new way to come up with a package that is truly unique – they aren’t technology pioneers per se


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