Surprise! Apple Execs Use The Mac Anniversary To Dis Microsoft.

by Brian S Hall   |   January 27th, 2014

When Apple executives speak to the press, pay attention. They may dodge. They may fail to disclose some facts, overemphasize others. But, and this is critical, Apple executives who speak on the record always reveal what they are thinking.

Surprise. Apple executives think a great deal about Microsoft.

Mostly, they think Microsoft has got it completely wrong. In this case, however, I hope it is Apple that is proven wrong.

Last week, Macworld scored a very rare interview with key Apple executives. The men spoke on the occasion of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. That the Mac (in its many forms) is thirty is a truly laudable achievement. For so long, the Mac was marginalized. So much so, in fact, that Steve Jobs had no choice but to turn to the iPod. No more. Today, Mac survives and by the great metric of profits, even thrives.

Which is why I find it so odd that in granting their interview, the Apple executives spoke so little about the Mac’s rather inspiring tale and instead directed jab after jab toward Microsoft’s unified OS strategy.

This, dear reader, is what we call a tell.

Hardware Trumps All Else

From Macworld’s brief interview, consider the many times Apple execs suggest that the current Windows strategy is all wrong:

“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience? We believe, no.”

“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be.”

“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a non goal ”

“You don’t want to say the Mac became less good at being a Mac because someone tried to turn it into iOS.”

“There’s a natural form factor that drives the optimal experience for each of those things. And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.”

Tim Cook appeared on ABC in large part to talk about the Mac at 30. The company created a splashy new landing page at Apple.com to celebrate thirty years of Macintosh. Apple execs spoke to the press as part of the Mac’s celebration. Yet, Apple’s conversation continues to come back to that central theme: Microsoft is doing it wrong.

What gives?

Partly, it’s because no matter how rich Apple is now, old grudges never fully heal. It’s also representative of the fact that, at least in part, Apple is smart enough to let sales direct strategy. Consider that for the last quarter, Apple will sell about 50 million iPhones, 25 million iPads, and probably less than 5 million Macs. There is simply no incentive for the company to even suggest a Mac OSX – iOS convergence.

I hope they are wrong.

Many Modes. Many Devices. One Interface.

Surface tabletI want my various “computers” — defined here as at least my smartphone, tablet, desktop, laptop, wearable watch, television and even car dashboard — to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.

Yes, my many computers are for different tasks and will be used at different times, in different settings. I will want to use a keyboard and mouse for some activities, touch for others, my voice for still others. That said, I want all my devices to have a UI that looks and feels and functions similarly. Even more, I want a singular user experience across all devices and across all modes of interaction. Thus, Mac knows my touch and my voice exactly as iPhone. My iPad screen and Mac screen are essentially swappable.

It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.

Apple Limitations

Apple has survived and prospered because of its rather profound understanding of the opportunities presented by its own limitations. Whereas Google is almost infinitely scalable, there are hard limits on what Apple can do. Thus, their relentless multi-decade focus on maximizing the potential of a fully integrated hardware-software-services ecosystem. The result is the world’s best smartphone, best tablet, best laptop.

It’s no longer enough. As data shifts to the cloud, hardware becomes increasingly de-constructed. Desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, an assortment of wearables, connected cars, connected homes and on and on. I want the very best of each of these. I also want each of these to operate with the same essential template.

Perhaps I can’t have that, now now, maybe not ever. But it bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology and greatness. His work has appeared in Techpinions, ReadWrite, Macworld, the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, and others. His latest novel is Love in the Time of Caller ID.
  • Kizedek

    That’s one way to look at it, I suppose. Another way is to imagine that the comments are at face value about the Mac… In a time when Mac users have been worried that Apple has focused on iOS to the detriment of Mac development, perhaps execs were reassuring Mac users that Apple is not going for convergence of iOS and OS X as many others surmise, advise, hope or cynically assume.

    But I am not quite sure what you are saying… Is it a “tell”, or are they wrong?
    Do you think it’s a case of the execs throwing the competition off the scent, when in fact they are hard at work at convergence? Or, do you think they are simply not pursuing any great deal of integration when you believe they should be? …
    Or, do you think their apparent “preoccupation” with MS reveals some kind of fear at Apple?

    In any case, it would be interesting to see a full transcript. I liked to see if the five statements you list are the sum total of “many” suggestions that MS has got it wrong, and what percentage of the total transcripts this represents; and whether or not these statements are in response to direct questions …perhaps questions about Apple’s Mac strategy vs the Windows strategy, for example.

    • Bill Smith

      Wow. Klahanas is right about you. Very sharp of you to see the article’s faults and list them. I’m sure we’ll have much great conversation in the future.

      Were there an editor, I would complain that this article simply isn’t up to snuff. Lots of implication and speculation; very little insight and analysis. Hopefully Brian will take your comments to heart and back up his accusations.

    • chano1

      Really?
      Honest?
      Have you actually tried the full range of trackpad gestures on a Mac?

      • Kizedek

        I think Brian is calling for a little more “convergence” than that. (I am using my trackpad right now and love it).

    • http://intertext.com/ Jason Snell

      One of the ground rules of the interview was that I am not allowed to post a raw transcript. I may write a follow-up with more quotes, if I can find the time. Your interpretation that the statements are about the Mac, based on Mac users being worried, is correct — my questions were absolutely about that.

      • Kizedek

        thanks for commenting here

  • pxlated

    Please Brian, keep your grubby little hands off my Mac – Even though I love my touch iDevices a plenty I don’t want that interface on my Mac. I tend toward the view expressed in their point #4.

    • peter

      Agree.

      Having a similar code-base and kernel may be efficient, having user interfaces that do not unnecessarily clash makes sense. However, the idea that a 12-core/dual-GPU Mac Pro must have the same operating system as an iPhone is a couple of bridges too far, because it will require too many compromises on both sides of the equation.

  • Bill Smith

    Vehemently disagree. While there’s no reason to have different kernels, and the services and protocols made available should be compatible, the UI should always be tailored to the task at hand. Having some similar concepts, a similar theme, is a good idea, but I agree with Apple that forcing the same OS onto all devices is unwise. Not all concepts integrate naturally into all products.

    “Windows Everywhere” is a marketing contrivance, not sound engineering. OS X and iOS will and should cross-pollinate, but suggesting that Apple is doing anything other than stating their design philosophy is…well…something I would expect from ReadWrite or another site trolling for page views.

    The title alone, much less the slanderous accusations have a certain “stink” on them.

    While your opinion is certainly valid, I fail to see how this fits on TechPinions as an article suitable for discussion. I would never expect Messieurs Bajarin or Wildstrom to engage in this type of muckraking.

    I would strongly suggest that you choose a title that isn’t as condescending and hyperbolic; then, present your argument for a combined platform across all devices. Some of the most widely discussed articles here have come from the opinions of Mr. Wildstrom, Bajarin and Marks(?) that weren’t actually tied to a news event; we readers simply love to hear their opinions; it’s always a good conversation starter.

    If the articles start leaning toward the trashy, the comments will degrade into noise as well, and I would hate to see that.

    • steve_wildstrom

      Well, since you brought up my name, I’m going to come to Brian’s defense.

      While it may be dangerous to read too much into those comments in Macworld without knowing the full context of the interviews, if fully believe that Apple execs do spend a fair amount of time worrying about Microsoft’s next move. Also Google and Samsung. And Microsoft execs worry about Apple and Google. That’s how you live in a business where, as Andy Grove famously said, only the paranoid survive.

      Apple and Microsoft have staked out diametrically opposed positions, and Brian and I strongly disagree about which is likely to prevail. Apple believes in building two very different user interfaces on a common kernel and a group of shared APIs (though neither is a subset of the other) to support touch and mouse-and-keyboard devices. Microsoft is supporting two UIs, which it is moving to unify, but both are common to both touch and mouse-and-keyboard devices. Apple believes the touch device will dominate the future, with the traditional PC reserved for specialized uses. Microsoft believes the keyboard and pointing device is an integral part of our tablet future.

      I’ve made no secret of my belief that Apple has the correct idea and certainly it has the advantage of a big head start in the touch business. But I am fascinated to watch this play out because the shape of our computing future is being decided in this fight. Microsoft may be behind, but it has the resources and the determination to make a long term play. Let’s see what they do with Windows 9.

      • Kizedek

        “I am fascinated to watch this play out because the shape of our computing future is being decided in this fight. Microsoft may be behind, but it has the resources and the determination to make a long term play. Let’s see what they do with Windows 9.”

        I see what you are saying, though I do think the term “long term play” is better associated with Apple. But, whatever, you have characterized it generously — as though two noble knights are bashing it out in a tournament.

        It may well be that determination and resources on the part of MS is enough to see their approach come through as some kind of winner that shapes the future of computing.

        However, it seems like there is a lot that would/should color the story. For my part, I think it will be interesting to watch whether MS really has what it takes to properly shape the future of computing, or whether mere determination and resources is enough to carry the day for them. If mere determination and resources do turn out to be enough…. then that is a computing future that I am not too eager to contemplate!

        What fascinates me is how well your statement, intentional or otherwise, plays into the “accepted” narrative that it is only a matter of time before MS inevitably shapes computing once again, because, well, it’s inevitable. But, then again, it’s always a matter of time with MS; so why not classify everything, Surface and RT included, as a long term play.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          I wouldn’t count Microsoft out (nor Google). The original vision of Steve Jobs was absolutely proven wrong — until it was proven right. The Mac was marginalized. It took decades for this to turnaround (and still hasn’t, in fact). The very same Steve Jobs vision was absolutely correct for iOS (iPhone/iPad). But, as computing goes to our cars, our homes and elsewhere, perhaps the Microsoft vision (in 5-20 years) will turn out to be correct. This is one reason why so many of us cover this industry. Dominance is so fleeting.

          • Space Gorilla

            Jobs was just ahead of his time, that’s all. Integration and the abstraction of the computer is the right vision (think simple appliances), but that couldn’t succeed until computing went truly mainstream, and that only happened very recently.

          • chano1

            But Brian, as you well know, the surest way to ruin any user experience is to inject the unstable MS DNA into it.
            I get the feeling that your tongue is nestled firmly in your cheek as you wrote this comment, hence my response.

          • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

            Not at all. My comment wasn’t meant to suggest that Microsoft has a better UI or will construct a better UI than Apple. Rather, that the tech landscape changes so radically that I can imagine in 10 years, say, everyone insisting that controlling your own hardware is foolish. As long as Apple has the cash to weather such storms, they should do very well.

      • Mauryan

        I am not sure if I agree with your statement that Apple is worried constantly about what Microsoft is doing. Apple has a very clearcut philosophy that defines its entire existence as a company – making such cool products that everyone would want it. Apple did not create the iTunes eco-system or the iPod or the iPhone/iPad by worrying about Microsoft’s next move. They understood Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses well. Their business approach mostly remained divergent. Only now Microsoft is trying to align its business model to match that of Apple and is doing a poor job of it. Apple is worried about its innovations being cloned by copycats like Samsung who can wipe a company off before it becomes aware of it. Other than that Apple has its own roadmap where it does what it wants to do. Steve Jobs’ philosophy was that the customer cannot have any preferences about a product he does not know exists yet. In that approach, one does not need market analysis, tiny iterations and trials and errors. The only thing a company with that approach has to make sure is that what is delivered is 100% perfect right from the moment it hits the stores. There is very little room for error. Apple made sure that what was promised, was delivered. Microsoft unfortunately has no experience doing that and it is burning its fingers trying to ape Apple. Samsung with its endeavor into Tizen will learn the hard way too.

      • Bill Smith

        Mr. Wildstrom, the manner in which you present your side is precisely why I enjoy your writing so much.

        Again, my complaint is not at all that Brian’s opinion is invalid, but that his title and presentation were inflammatory rather than bringing up a topic for debate and stating the reasons for his beliefs in depth.

        My sincere apologies if my opposition to link bait was seen as a desire to squelch Brian’s views. I heartily welcome healthy debate.

        I just can’t imagine you titling a piece…”There’s a shocker! Android is virus laden compared to iOS. WTF?”

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      “Windows Everywhere is a marketing contrivance.” Agreed. But, the company has adopted this strategy. As for trolling and muckraking, well, on that we must disagree. I think I am correct and think I present the argument. Indeed, I sought to be very restrained here. The Apple execs spoke so often of the value of multiple OSes and building for the specific task/device that I speculate they may be considering a rather startling OS alternative for any line of wearables they may produce. But, at this time, I dare not go there.

    • chano1

      Do ease off and get over yourself.
      Brian is as Brian writes.
      He is being true to his strengths as an agent provocateur.
      He is valued by those who have followed him, for precisely those attributes.
      God knows there are enough shills and empty-headed bozos writing on the web.

  • jfutral

    You say dissing MS, I say helping them out. What better compliment than to be called out by your competition?

    Honestly, I think Apple would rather be competing against MS than Android (and I do mean Android and not necessarily Google since even Google’s share of the Android device market is small). At least MS was honest enough to license Apple patents rather than co-opt or steal them (well, these days, that is).

    Joe

    • Bill Smith

      There are too many splinters to fight Android head-on. At least Microsoft is playing the same game by similar rules.

      Android is like the “‘Reavers” from Firefly…

  • Tafelapfel

    I’m with the critics here: Since when is stating one’s own strategic decisions and believes “dissing” the competition? What should Apple execs have said? “Oh well, we do it all wrong and Microsoft is right!”?

    In this sense the headline does smell like link bait to me. On the other hand, wishing to have a unified UI experience and that MS may be right is a valid position to have (even though I don’t share it) …

    • Mauryan

      Having the same UI for every device might be the goal of some companies because they view the world that way. But the consumers are not complaining right now, unless you are coming across some. What is needed is what the consumer likes and if a unified UI can provide that, great, then that’s what everyone will gravitate towards. But if that attempt leads to hiccups and roadblocks, then Apple might be right in its policy. A lot will depend upon how MS succeeds in making the one God UI that works for everything. If it tarnishes its already tarnished image trying to do this, then may be no one might be willing to go that way.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      When I am tasked with writing the headline I try to make it fully and truthfully tell the story to follow — never link bait. I do confess that it seemed clear to me that Apple was “dissing” Microsoft with their statements and I couldn’t get that word out of my head. Perhaps I could have done better. Apple Execs Mock Microsoft?

      • Bill Smith

        You started a title with “Surprise!”, made an accusation in the middle, and the derogatory vernacular at the end? That’s not journalism. That’s what I would expect from Star Magazine or The Register. Your opinion is not the issue; it’s what you tried to do.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          Thanks. I do take to heart the responses from commenters.

      • Tafelapfel

        Yes, “mocking” would’ve been better in my opinion, but I still think it wasn’t intentional (but perhaps it was ;)).

  • John Rogowski

    Brian, I think you are misunderstanding what the Apple executives are saying. They are not commenting on Microsoft, but reassuring Mac faithful that the Mac will not be forgotten, or turned into iOS.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Very possible. But, I re-read that interview (and even cut out a few relevant quotes here) and the sheer number of statements regarding their view of the follow of a ‘unified OS’ made me come to the conclusion that at the very highest levels, Apple has had discussions on whether the Microsoft strategy is proper — and they’ve decided it is not and are now setting out to convince the world of this.
      As I suggest above, the value of Mac to Apple is so slight compared to iOS that the company does not even need to reassure the Mac faithful. The Mac faithful are a tiny minority.

      • Bill Smith

        But they have done exactly that…including the creation of the Mac Pro.

        …and honestly, would you expect that Apple management would be so self-absorbed as to NOT consider what others in the industry are doing?

      • John Rogowski

        Two points. My reading of the interview is that Apple executives believe that there are different purposes for which a person will use a computing device. For each separate purpose, there is a specific tool that best fits. For example, when I read your article today, I was reading it on my iPhone, and was able to type a two line replay with no problem. However as I write this, I am sitting at a desk top, with multiple windows up. Yes, I can get work done on an iPad or an iPhone, but I am most productive when using a Mac as I tend to have multiple projects running at the same time. Federighi said that the Mac will always be true to itself. This iMac that I am using has had 30 years of engineering to perfect the use of a keyboard and a mouse. After 30 years of engineering, why should I have to start placing my stubby finger on the monitor, when I have a multitouch trackpad that is engineered specifically for the purpose? Let a monitor be a monitor.

        As for the value of the Mac to Apple, yes revenue from the Mac line is only about 25% of total. However I would suggest that the Mac is more important to Apple then this would imply. This is solely due to the value Apple places in their independent developers. Most of the million plus applications that make the iPhone or the iPad an useful tool were developed using a Mac. Yes, there are ways to work around this such as using VMWare, but I would say as an owner of both Mac’s and PC’s running Windows 7 and 8, why would you bother to not use a Mac?

        My first computer was an Apple IIc. Recently there was some concern from the Mac faithful that Apple intended to merge the two operating systems. The concern was that Apple would essentially dumb down the OS X operating system, and therefore the tech savvy would not be able to run their AppleScript functions, or Automator processes. With the 30th anniversary of the first Mac, Apple is taking the opportunity to reassure that OS X has a bright future ahead, and that 30 years of engineering shall not go to waste.

      • http://intertext.com/ Jason Snell

        Let’s skip over the “Mac faithful” stuff — lots of people use Macs and aren’t in any sort of cult. The religious imagery is tired.

        That all said, this was an interview with Macworld about the Mac’s 30th anniversary. You could argue that the entire conversation was targeted at Mac users. If they didn’t care to reassure the “Mac faithful” they might not have chosen an interview with Macworld, maybe? The 30th Anniversary seems to be as good a time as any to reassure Mac users that the Mac isn’t going away. Hence the headline of the story, which Schiller said to me: “The Mac goes on forever.”

      • chano1

        But it is their most enduring product and remains as fresh and invigorating to use as ever. It evolves to match the march of progress in technologies, and in its users. It defines the best of the PC space.

    • http://intertext.com/ Jason Snell

      You are essentially correct, John. Now, Brian may be right in divining their mental state at the time, but one reason they talked about this topic was because I asked the questions — and I was much more thinking of the context of Mountain Lion than Windows 8.

  • stefnagel

    I’m with Brian on this. Why not a MacBook Air running OSX that magically metamorphoses into iOS when we detach the screen from the keyboard? I think it will. Someday.

    • Space Gorilla

      Interesting idea, and Apple has a good deal of experience running two operating systems on one machine. I had a bunch of older apps that simply launched and worked on OSX for quite a while. I would guess computing power/battery life is the main limitation here.

      • steve_wildstrom

        The hardware, not the software, is the problem. There are devices along these lines on the market–for example, I have a ThinkPad Helix–and they end up being fairly poor compromises. For the display to detach as a tablet, the electronics and the battery have to be in the display. This leads to a top-heavy notebook, totally lacking the gracefulness of the MBA. And to have a device with the power and battery to run OS X well, you end up with a much heavier tablet than an iPad Air.

        The curse of the Swiss army knife is very hard to escape.

        • Space Gorilla

          I do lean towards iOS becoming more and more capable/powerful. As long as I can do X, Y, or Z, why do I care if it runs iOS or OSX? The elements of the desktop experience are just accessories anyway (OSX, mouse, keyboard, large screen). I already use my iPad 2 in a ZAGGFolio keyboard case. Maybe someday I’ll dock my iPad 7 and launch OSX on a large second screen on my desk where I keep my mouse and keyboard accessories.

        • stefnagel

          Fair enough. But it will happen; the needs of user and the requirements of the file and then the app will drive the OS version. All your listed issues will fade in time. It ain’t Apple to do it until it’s light and bright. And right.

          • steve_wildstrom

            I don;t Apple may do it some day, but only when they can do it without compromise. They would need a hybrid device that performs as well as an MBA and an iPad Air in each role and weighs and costs no more than the two combined. That’s some time away–and the breakthroughs that would make the combo possible might still produce two devices that individually are better.

            By the way, Lenovo is almost as good at the thin and light thing as Apple and the best they can do today doesn’t come close.

          • stefnagel

            Not sure where we disagree. Not today; someday. Like the hero of Powwow Highway, Apple knows how you arrive is more important than when you arrive at your destination.

  • Krabbie

    Ahh, Brian S Hall of the two weeks ago switch to Windows phone is snarking about what Apple Execs say???? Gee, never saw that coming. Brian is now a winfan as of two weeks ago so what kind of article will he write about all the good coming from MS? Or will he be another digger for the MS camp? I’d like to see the questions asked to get those quotes. Context is everything and from where Brian is coming from. Sounds like Redmond to me.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Really, that article was meant to tell everyone that it was okay to choose Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, etc. The days of cheering for a side have come and gone. FWIW, I use my MacBook Pro often. I found that my Roku offered me better options than my Apple TV. We have several iPads but once I switched to the large display Lumia 1520 smartphone I never use a tablet. I try to make my choices as rational as possible.

  • Herding_sheep

    And when MS makes their countless jabs at Apples strategy and how “crippled” iOS devices are because they aren’t “full PCs,” why aren’t you writing similar link bait stories about how that is a tell for MS? I’m pretty sure Microsoft has spent a fair bit of their marketing for Windows 8 telling a similar story about how the iPad is doing it “wrong.”

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      You don’t know me very well, sir. I’ve written a goodly share on what Microsoft is doing (and saying) wrong.

      • Bill Smith

        I back Brian’s opinion as valid, even though I don’t agree with him.

        I agree with you, however, that the story was written as “link bait”, titled as such, and written in such a way as to promote controversy over debate.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          Fair enough. Know this: not once has Techpinions asked or even suggested I alter anything to generate more page views, comments, shares, etc. I doubt you will find that of any other site in tech.

          • Bill Smith

            Oh, I fully believe that.

            I am, however, saying that the tone of TechPinions has not been inflammatory. There are SO many sites where I can find sensational headlines and, as a result, flame wars in the comments section and a very low signal-to-noise ratio.

            On this site, there has been so much incredible discussion and debate. I have come to treasure it.

            Of course it’s not up to me to determine the direction this site will go; I wholeheartedly agree that your voice is a good one to have here.

            It appears I should stand down and see where the TechPinions vision will evolve to.

          • Space Gorilla

            I’ve been reading Brian for quite a while, “inflammatory” is just his style :)

          • chano1

            If there was never any controversy in the world of debate, there would be no passion and no progress or evolution.

          • Herding_sheep

            Maybe “link bait” is a bit too extreme. I of course don’t expect this sort of antic on Techpinions, but I still do feel the title was a bit sensational. I don’t consider Apple’s statements so much as a “diss” rather than commentary on their competition, like I said they’re not doing this kind of stuff in multimillion dollar ad campaigns but just a simple interview for a community website.

            And considering the interview was much about the past and future of the Macintosh, with growing fear in the community that OSX would become iOS-ified, I feel the discussion was appropriate. You have to draw comparisons to highlight arguments, which I’m sure you do plenty in your own articles.

            Btw, I don’t know you very well, but I do have a general sense of your “inflammatory” style ;)

  • Mauryan

    This is like saying you want the truck, the car, the motorbike, all to look the same and function the same way like in one of those movies where cars turn into robotic warriors. It can be boring and might limit the capabilities of the software. This is because if you want to change something for one type of device, it may not work well for another device that now is forced to have the same UI. What is needed is a background platform that can transport the information between the different UIs seamlessly. Apple uses the iCloud for this purpose, where if you download an app into the iPhone or take a picture using it, you have the same thing appearing on another device. All calendars are synchronized. Users would like to see the same functionalities that can move between devices more than seeing the same type of user interface. If a company gets obsessed with hammering in the UI to match every device, it is forgetting what the end user is interested in. She is not interested in the UIs looking the same. She is interested in using the inputs and outputs that are transportable between her devices. This is where Apple has a very clear policy. Microsoft’s model of selling software to OEMS worked during a certain time and Apple’s model failed. Before one could drive cars on the freeway, the freeway has to be built. And when the freeway is being built, one cannot rely on cars. One needs trucks and cranes. Once the freeway is completed, it is not really meant for those who love their trucks. A different type of user comes in and cars flood the freeway with a few trucks in between. Microsoft’s model really worked in the 1980s and 1990s. After that mobile, wireless, browsers etc began to spread far and wide and there was the need for hardware/software integration in order to minimize chaos. Consumers love a fully integrated system that is sleek, elegant and simple. So trucks had to make way for luxury cars. And cars and trucks have very different user needs. A truck’s chassis can be fitted with different types of bodies, ranging from a freezer component to an ambulance to a funeral service. A car comes complete with its package and one can try to fit monster tires to it. But it would look odd. Apple’s model works today. Microsoft’s model does not work today. But it still is influenced by the truck maker mindset. Who knows how things will change in a few years from now?

    • chano1

      Nice, but I almost died of asphyxiation reading this.
      Have you heard of the ‘paragraph’, by any chance?

  • Space Gorilla

    Brian, what you’re missing is that consumers just want to ‘get things done’. As long as the UI makes sense for the task and is easy to use, they’re happy. Often the app is the UI anyway, when it comes to actual tasks being done.

    What matters more is how data is shared between devices and the ability to work with that data across more than one device, as seamlessly as possible. This is Apple’s answer to the convergence question. Conceptually, working on my iMac and iPad already feels converged to some degree, and I expect this to improve over time.

    I should also note that I prefer iOS over Mac OSX, it’s more pleasant for a lot of tasks. I expect iOS will slowly become more powerful and I’ll do more and more on iOS devices.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Agreed. We just want it to work. But I just can’t help hoping for a singular (working) interface across all devices and input modes. If anyone can do this, it’s Apple.

      • Space Gorilla

        We basically have that now, iOS isn’t wildly different from Mac OSX, it feels more like OSX simplified than something different. Or maybe it is that iOS is a ‘more direct’ implementation of the OSX concept. You ‘touch’ things to make other things happen. That’s the core of a good GUI. Maybe if you use Windows a lot you’re not used to a good GUI and hence don’t understand how similar iOS and OSX already are?

        Plus the app is the interface when you’re doing something anyway. When I’m designing something I use Photoshop or Illustrator, not OSX. On my iPad when I’m writing I use Pages, not iOS. The underlying UI is just there to help me use apps and work with my data. In that sense iOS is better, and it feels that way to me for lots of tasks. And obviously mainstream consumers love iOS. I’d bet on Apple ‘growing’ iOS before they’ll merge with OSX or ‘touchify’ OSX.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          To some extent, I agree. Having cloud services helps, in particular. But, even when working in Pages, for example, I like to grab information in from the web, from archived documents and the like, but can’t do that with iPad (not easily). I can on Mac.

          • Space Gorilla

            It is certainly easier on the Mac, but fast switching in iOS 7 makes it fairly easy on the iPad, and there’s no doubt Apple is going to improve this when it can. Battery life comes first. I predict you’ll give up on this notion of One UI To Rule Them All in a year or two, as it becomes more and more obvious that it is a solution in search of a problem.

            On a bit of a tangent, how are you finding the Metro/Tile UI when it comes to handling poor content? When I see promo shots of Metro I always wonder if it works as well or looks as good after a few months of normal use. It doesn’t seem very ‘fault tolerant’. I thought the same thing about Facebook’s home thingy, once you fill it up with bad photos and text that isn’t edited to fit, it looks like junk. Are you finding that with Metro, or does it handle the load pretty well?

    • Mark

      Your observations got me thinking about an analogous circumstance: whether to have individual screw drivers or one of those multi-bit switchable ones. Both approaches are in play inthe market place and it is a mute point to argue which one is right or wrong. If I am the individual driver maker I am targeting a particular usage and associated customer. If I am the multi switchable bit maker my usage and customer is different. I take this whole matter of what apple execs say is more of a declaration of the choices they are making and why, in this explanation they are referencing the counter choice to help elaborate their philosophy about their choice. Regardless the marketplace will decide (pen or the other, or some sharing the marketplace).

      Mark

      • Space Gorilla

        I would say the screwdriver is the single UI while the different bits are simply different apps that let you do different things. Microsoft’s approach is more like trying to build an all in one tool that is a screwdriver, a hammer, a saw, a level, and so on. It’s almost like Word, conceptually, and Word is a mess.

        You’re correct that different approaches are in play in the market, and the all-in-one approach doesn’t seem to be doing very well. I don’t find that surprising, since using the best tool for the job is always a better approach.

        But it could also be that Microsoft’s attempt just isn’t very good as a GUI to start with. Much like the tablet itself, early attempts didn’t succeed because they weren’t very good, not because it was a tablet. There’s a big difference between doing something and doing something right.

  • Anders CT

    1) Some of the features introduced in iOS7 strongly suggest that there will be some kind of iBook or iOS laptop-convertible thingy in the future.

    2) Microsoft does not need to dream about a unified OS that offers the same platform on desktops, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and TVs. It’s already here: It is called Android. It even runs on Windows PC’s.

    • jamesdbailey

      Are you really claiming that Android is a successful desktop OS? That seems to be quite a reach. Most people don’t even think it has been very successful on tablets much less multi-screen/large-screen PCs.

  • jamesdbailey

    The engineering task to create two separate UIs that are appropriate for the intended task is a huge undertaking. Now think about the problem of trying create a single UI that encompasses a much wider range of activities than desktop vs. touch alone. I suspect Microsoft is making their task harder by an order of magnitude and I have never really had much respect for their ability to create usable UIs in the first place.

    Right now it appears that Microsoft has leaned too far towards a tablet and touch interface. This has angered their desktop OS customers. The next versions will try to scale the touch changes back so that the desktop OS customers will be willing to upgrade to the next OS.

    Apple doesn’t face those kinds of dilemmas with their strategy. Is Microsoft really justified in their belief that they can accomplish convergence given their past history and the lack of precedent from any other company. I’m skeptical.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Good point. I do want a fully unified platform across devices, input modes, work settings. Maybe it’s impossible. Or, if not, just can never be good enough. I hope that’s not correct and I hope Apple hasn’t given up on the idea.

  • steve_wildstrom

    Everyone engaged in this debate: Stop for a minute and read Ben Evans’ incisive analysis at Stratechery. Much will be clarified.

    • jamesdbailey

      i think you mean Ben Thompson.

      • steve_wildstrom

        Yes indeed. Brain freeze; got my Bens confused. I’ll fix that immediately.

        • jamesdbailey

          Feel free to delete my post. It has no value now.

        • klahanas

          You should have left it there. Had me squinting and scratching my head too long! :-)

        • jfutral

          The polar vortex strikes again!

          Joe

    • peter

      I think Ben Thompson is on a roll. His simplicity-as-key-feature thinking is spot on. Simplicity allows (1) for casual use of devices, (2) for use on-the-go and (3) opens computing up to a wider audience:

      – 1) IOS has made casual photographers and casual gamers out of many people who were not willing to pay a 200-hour learning curve tax for more professional devices and software.
      – 2) The simplicity allows us to use computing devices whenever we have a little downtime during the day (while waiting in line or travelling to the next meeting). Booting up a PC (or Mac) to make use of 5 or 10 minutes of downtime is not something that is terribly productive or enjoyable.
      – 3) Techies are discovering that parents and grandparents have become avid computing device users that no longer ask for help (because there was a strange message on the screen).

      Casual-use-on-the-go (there is not word for this) means that computing devices are now taken to and used in places where they never went before.

      • Space Gorilla

        I’m finding the simplicity of my iPad has me wanting to do more and more on it instead of using my iMac, because the iPad is more pleasant to use, it’s easier. So I think there’s a lot of benefit even for experienced users.

  • Chris Marriott

    The Mac and the desktop OS paradigm is going to be around for a long time. It’s not going to be sucked up into the cloud because until there’s cheap, widely available, low latency upstream bandwidth, people who deal with content, will continue to work locally with local horsepower.

    We’re years and years away from heavy lifting with your computer being abstracted enough to touch it and use it via a connection to the cloud. Apple knows this and that’s why we have the new Mac Pro.

    Isn’t it already plainly clear that the unified OS approach across desktop and mobile is a failure?

    • Space Gorilla

      That new Mac Pro feels like the foundation of a kind of ‘local cloud’.

  • Corvus

    Your attempt to re-write history is noted. “Steve Jobs had no choice but to turn to the iPod” is a ridiculous statement, the iMac was a solid hit and had already turned the company around, the iPod was icing on the cake…

  • Chris Marriott

    LCARS is at least a decade away. Warp drive is at least 20 years off, I think.

  • FalKirk

    I disagree with this article and I will state my case — in no uncertain terms — in my article on Thursday.

  • chano1

    Brian, I think you are wrong on this point of having a uniform UI across all devices. They are not the same form factor at all as between iOS and OSX devices. If I’m wrong on this then I guess you would prefer a set of handlebars in your car, or perhaps a steering wheel on every two-wheeler, hmmm :-}
    How is your longevity project going btw.
    Live long and prosper, Brian!

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Do you want yet another Apple OS for their line of wearables? For your car dashboard?

      • GlennC777

        As long as it is intuitive and recognizable and data is easily shared then I don’t see how it matters what’s beneath the surface. You go from one car to another, and they all have different chassis, engines, etc. but the basic controls are immediately intuitive and the secondary controls are quickly learned.

        On the other hand, forcing the same OS to function across enormously variable platforms seems misguided. The same engine for a truck, a car, and a scooter? I don’t think that works very well.

  • http://intertext.com/ Jason Snell

    Hi, author of the interview here. I think you are wrong to ascribe all of those statements to Apple giving it to Microsoft. Another theme of the interview was the panic that many Mac users felt when OS X releases (most notably Mountain Lion) seemed to ape iOS design conventions, as if Apple itself was pushing the iOS and OS X experiences together. Federighi’s unified control of both development teams could have heightened that fear. But in fact, Mavericks seems to take a step back from forcing the two products into one design language.

    I don’t deny that several of their responses are definitely shots at the Windows 8 strategy, but I think you’re missing the other piece here, which is that Apple itself seemed to be headed down this road under Scott Forstall, but has reversed course. As a longtime Mac user and a representative of Macworld, I felt it only right to get them on the record talking about if that was a true reversal of direction or just a pause.

    As for why they didn’t speak more about the past, well, I find a lot of the reminiscence stuff to be boring, and only one member of the original Mac team was present in the interview room. I did ask them some questions about it (my “brief” interview ran for 45 minutes, but I was asked not to post a transcript, so my story covers the highlights). Generally their responses were what you’d expect–about how Apple has always been committed to the synthesis of hardware and software and the crafting of great products, and how it’s great that Apple is still committed to making great products today. Nothing really new there, and self serving enough that I felt the comments about the future growth path of the Mac were more relevant. But they did talk about it.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Thank you, Jason. I appreciate the comment and was envious that you got that interview. (Though deserved)

      • GlennC777

        Steve Jobs realized – by the early eighties (!) – that the end game of the personal computer revolution would be to have data that was universally accessible from any location, at any time, from whatever device one happened to be using.

        That in a nutshell is the basic argument against the need for a “universal” OS. The OS should fit the device. It is the interface, and the data, that should be consistent (or at least approach consistency) across devices. What’s under the surface doesn’t matter. That is the story of Apple: the user is insulated from the workings of the device and only needs to concern himself with what he wants to accomplish. Give him the tools to do it, and get the device itself out of the way.

        • Space Gorilla

          Well said, and an excellent point about Jobs and the cloud. There’s a video somewhere of Jobs talking about the cloud way back then. And of course NeXT did a lot of work on the concept.

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

    Microsoft will not win. Their approach is wrong, and it’s partners and it’s customers know it.

  • Moeskido

    I’m not one of those who’s hoping for convergence between iOS and OS X. I like the differences that address different physical use, and I like the fact that Apple can learn unique new things about improving a UI within each of them that a unified OS might not provide.

  • Bruno Deserto

    The same UI would be fantastic is the user experience were equally so. At the end of the way it is the user experience that matters and come on, wouldn’t it be good to use your only one device to have you your work done regardless where you are? That would be fantastic. However, I do think MS missed the boat. Windows 8, no start button confusing interface for many? I didn’t have any problem with the interface itself although I do find it annoying sometimes, but many had problems and this should be taken into consideration.