Sleeping with the Enemy Would Benefit Both Microsoft & Apple

Because of what I do, I try different devices all the time. While I have used Windows 10 PCs since they became available, I never made one my main working device. For the past nine years, my main PC has been a Mac with the 12” MacBook as my latest device. Last week, I received a Surface Book with Performance Base and, after setting it up, I decided to try and make the switch.

I was particularly interested in understanding how, as a user, I could continue to benefit from the Apple ecosystem even if I did not have a Mac. Also, what is the opportunity Microsoft has to deliver the best Windows 10 + iOS experience. This is important because there are more iOS users with a PC than there are iOS users with a Mac. So it offers an opportunity for both companies to improve the cross-platform experience. While there might be an opportunity for Apple to convert a few of those PC users, the great majority are comfortable right where they are. Offering an easier cross-platform experience between iOS and Windows 10 as a differentiator for Surface would clearly benefit Microsoft.

Hardware and Windows 10 are the Easy Part

As I prepared to transition to Surface Book, there were specific aspects of my workflow I needed to address.

The hardware was not a problem. I love the keypad. I spend a lot of my day typing and I was not a fan of the keypad on the 12” MacBook. Typing on the Surface Book is extremely rewarding. The mousepad is a little more sensitive than the one on the MacBook but it did not take long to get used to it. The Surface Book’s fan kicks in often and it is quite loud which was a bit of a distraction at first. The quality of the screen is great but I did not find myself touching it very much other than with the pen to write quick notes.

I am not new to Windows 10 so transitioning was not an issue. The most annoying thing was trying to paste using the equivalent of Command-V which obviously did not work. Mac users are very different and many use their systems in a much deeper way than I do so I do not intend to speak for them. If you already use Office on the Mac, your transition will be much easier. If your documents are all in iCloud, your transition will also be easier. When I joined Creative Strategies back in April, I moved to the cloud and my multi-device life became so much smoother. Once I got on the OS X Sierra Beta, things got even better as all the files I am working on are saved to the iCloud Desktop automatically, making my ‘grab and go’ routine more accessible. Something else that changed back in April is I now only travel with my 9.7” iPad Pro. Not having to think if I have all the files I need was extremely liberating. I downloaded iCloud for Windows on my Surface Book and all my work was easily accessed. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote were also fine to use although Numbers documents missed a few functionalities and Keynote presentations had some font issues.

While the files were not an issue, remembering all the passwords for all the websites I use certainly was annoying but, of course, that is something you only do once.

I was concerned about my Apple Watch not being able to unlock my PC but Windows Hello on Surface Book was seamless. I sat down at my desk and the Surface Book was unlocked. It felt like there was no password set up in the first place.

What it All Boils Down to: iMessage and Apps

In the end, what I really struggled with were two things that had nothing to do with the OS per se or the physical device.

I use iMessage a lot during my day and, while my iPhone is always next to me, I have become accustomed to using it on my Mac. I do this because it is more convenient using a full keyboard to type but mostly because it feels more part of whatever I am doing. It remains more central to my workflow rather than a side conversation on the phone.

The other big part of my day is Twitter and the client on Windows is just painful. I asked input from my followers but the sad answer was a validation of my pain. Using Tweetdeck over the browser was far from perfect as, more often than not, I would accidentally close the window. So, as with iMessage, I resorted to having my iPad open next to the Surface Book which really impacted my workflow.

iMessage for Windows

Why does Apple do that, you ask? Because it cements iOS users even more into iMessage vs. having them look for other apps that could have them disengage from iOS. I am not advocating Apple replicate all the features iMessage has on iPhone. There are features that are not unique. So, for instance, keep invisible ink for iPhone and allow stickers. Apple has much to gain here, contrary to what it would be if it put iMessage on Android. iMessage for Windows is about recognizing not all their iOS users will be Mac users and allowing them to still get the best experience from iOS. Opening iMessage to Android will not really do much as far as driving churn and there are plenty of other apps that go cross-platform in phones that leave users with plenty of choice.

With Windows launching People with third party app plugins, it would be a perfect time for iMessage to be included.

More App investment

Microsoft has options to both improve Windows and differentiate Surface. There are steps Microsoft can take in engaging with developers more to get apps to Windows. Even without a phone business to worry about, the Windows 10 environment is behind. There are two sides of this equation. One speaks to the creators Microsoft is focusing on for the next software update and one speaks to consumers who are still very engaged with their PCs and, therefore, want a rich experience. With Apple’s new MacBook Pro on the market and the eagerness to prove the Touch Bar is the right approach for touch on a Mac, I expect Apple to make developer engagement a top priority. Microsoft needs to do the same for the platform but also should step up efforts in first party apps both for Windows and Surface. So, if Twitter is not interested in improving its app, why is Microsoft not building one?

There are other things the Windows Devices team could do for Surface like creating apps that help with content transfer for those people who are not already in the cloud.

Think Beyond Devices and Platform

What my experience made crystal clear is both Apple and Microsoft need to think beyond devices and the OS and think about the whole ecosystem and their ultimate goals.

If Apple is serious about shifting more revenue to services, why not take Apple Music out of iTunes and make is a standalone app? I have not used iTunes in years as, whenever I get a new device, all my backups are in the cloud. Having to use iTunes to play my music on a Mac or download iTunes to the Surface Book seems a very unnecessary step. While I am sure people still buy music, I would bet they are less likely to do it if they subscribe to Apple Music. Even if they did, a simple link to the store would be all they need.

For Microsoft, it is about recognizing that, whether in the consumer space or the enterprise one, Surface buyers are more likely than not to have an iPhone and be entrenched into iOS. Embracing what they are attached to, rather than forcing them to use other tools, would benefit engagement (although it might not benefit a specific service). One Drive is a good example. While it was possible for me to access iCloud, there were more steps to take when wanting to save documents as the default was either One Drive or DropBox.

Together Against Google

Both companies need to also realize facilitating this Windows + iOS world will help limit the risk of Google taking advantage of the weaknesses and grabbing users. Again, this is not about devices. I do not expect Google to win consumers and enterprises with Chromebooks and Android tablets. This is about the much bigger battles: Digital Assistants and AI. Google has always been very good at using its device-agnostic approach to its advantage. Google Maps, Google Photos and now Allo are great examples of the extent Google goes to make sure it reaches valuable customers on other platforms. It is about time Apple and Microsoft started to play the same game.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

19 thoughts on “Sleeping with the Enemy Would Benefit Both Microsoft & Apple”

  1. Interesting, thank you.

    I’m wondering about a few things:
    1- ctrl-V should work just as Cmd-V: Paste. ctrl-X is cut, -C is copy. I think the Cmd and Ctrl keys are strictly equivalent ? The Windows key is for OS-level stuff (as opposed to app-level stuff): Wndws-R = Run, W-S = Search, W-L = Lock…
    2- By “keypad”, you must mean “keyboard” ^^
    3- You can make your user home folder or subfolders default to any cloud drive: Explorer, right click your home folder (or any standard subfolder: Pictures, Music, Documents…), Properties, Location, Move… to a subfolder of your cloud drive. That’s all your data, so might be big, I recommend moving specific subfolders, you can put each in a different cloud folder so as not to exceed your quota. By default apps will write data to your home folder or the appropriate sub (Documents), unless set up differently.
    4- I thought iTunes backup were still strongly recommended in case something goes wrong with your Apple account ? Plus one backup = no backup.
    5- I’m running into the web apps issue too: too many tabs in a browser gets confusing. So I’m using 3 browsers: Opera w/ all plugins and javascript disabled for unsafe sites and plain reading (no hacker ever bothered targeting Opera ^^), Chrome for web apps, and Firefox for regular browsing. In all 3, you can Pin tabs to make them harder to close (Opera also lets you save a session of multiple tabs), and pull tabs out into their own separate app window.

    The Twitter app is an example of Mobile pulling ahead of Windows. As an Android user, I run an Android VM over Windows To use my preferred preferred Mobile apps on my desktop. AMI DuOS works rather well. VMs are resource hogs though, I use it on my Desktop, not Laptop.

    The iMessage situation is harder to solve. It’s the only messaging app that’s OEM-specifc, I tell everyone to stay away from it. On Android, you’ve got a choice of cross-platform apps, plus Pushbullet (there’s an iOS version, reviews seem mixed) to handle Mobile notifications (incl. quick replies) on Windows.

    On the Android side you can also remote from Windows into your phone/tablet (via TeamViewer, etc…). That solves any apps problem as long as your tablet is up and running, and on the Internet. Not sure if/how that’s possible with iOS.

    1. Wonderful example of not being boxed in. You chose those solutions for yourself, and were able to utilize them unimpeded and without anyone’s permission.

      Or… you could choose to use them in some standard fashion.

      That! is a personal computer. It seems too many people have forgotten.

    2. Not being able to remote into iOS from any other device is a security feature and a consequence of the strict sandbox model. Basically, no app should be able to see the screen of another app. At least his is my understanding and I do not know if there are any workarounds.

      1. Remoting is safe:
        – 99.99% of servers are headless, ie w/o screen nor keyboard and only managed by remoting into them. If remoting were unsafe, we’d be in big trouble.
        – I’ve never heard of a big remoting hack, except a TeamViewer password scare a few months ago, that was probably due to password reuse.
        – Macs support remoting into them ^^

        It could be implemented as a closed OS feature, not an app-based one, to not upset Apple’s dogma.

        Edit: it seems some apps can see the whole screen, w/ user intervention:

        1. Remote itself is not the issue. The issue is letting any app that has access to you desktop, view the contents of other apps.

          For example, your Twitter app could take a screenshot of your whole screen and send it to twitter for machine learning.

          1. If you’re remoting *into* iOS, the iOS apps don’t see anything of the PC/Mac side; and the PC/Mac apps can take screenshots regardless of remoting. The only vuln you’re adding is that PC/Mac apps can now screenshot your iDevice alongside your Desktop. Isn’t that marginal ?

          2. Which screen casting apps are you talking about? The ones that I’m aware of are basically video-out receivers that run on a Mac. There are none that I know of that allow one to control an iOS device from a remote machine. There are also no apps that run on iOS devices that can capture video from other apps running on the same device. Hence no remote client apps that run on iOS.

          3. Agreed, screencasting does not allow remote input, that’s the difference between remote control and screencasting. Screencasting just sends the whole screen off somewhere, via the physical port or widi (or whatever nonstandard wireless video protocol Apple uses ^^).

            My point is: the ability does already exist for at least one app to cast the screen of an iOS device, so the “Apple won’t let an App see other apps content” is just untrue, at least one app already does.
            The way Apple seems to do screencasting seems to a) only allow a built-in system tool to do it and b) require explicit physical authorization from the iDevice’s user. That would be OK for remoting too. (Android is more lax, allowing 3rd-party apps, though I think all also require mobile-user validation on the mobile device before accepting remote control.)

            The screen already can be cast, so that’s obviously not the issue, and not a security issue. Maybe Apple considers also allowing remote input is too risky on iOS (but not on Macs), which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. More probably, they can’t be bothered implementing it because they don’t see much demand for it (that’s how I do remote support for my parents). I Carolina’s case, it would be useful though, at least until (if ever) Apple let’s desktops run iOS apps the way Android apps can.

          4. Agree.

            It probably is a security concern.

            In fact, regarding the new touch bar on the new MacBook Pros, there was a discussion somewhere that shed light on the fact that it works on a different processor, and that was very good for security. The thing is, anything on a regular PC screen can be intercepted and overlapped by rouge apps. For example, Dropbox was caught recently for faking a system dialogue box on the Mac, causing users to inadvertently give it permissions that it wasn’t supposed to have. Basically, desktop screens are not secure. The touchbar on the new MacBook Pros are more secure because rouge apps cannot overlap them with fake UI.

  2. “Because it cements iOS users even more into iMessage vs. having them look for other apps that could have them disengage from iOS. ”

    A practice that should be deeply criticized… by users!

    “So, if Twitter is not interested in improving its app, why is Microsoft not building one?”

    That would be nice, but it’s not imperative that my car manufacturer repair the roads. That, or a deeper evil… censorship. A “Windows Seal” has been done in the past, and seems reasonable, it “curates by validation”, rather than by fiat.

    For either (any) company, these are PCs. The “P” in PC is not window dressing. If they offer to do IT tasks for the owner, then the owner ought to be able to override their choices.

    “What my experience made crystal clear is both Apple and Microsoft need to think beyond devices and the OS and think about the whole ecosystem and their ultimate goals.”

    This statement has a district flavor to it, can’t quite place my finger on it….
    “You see folks, we’re going to build a wall, a really big wall, a fabulous wall, to protect our users. This is something I’m good at……and the user is going to pay for it!” 🙂

  3. Nice to see a frank and honest look at the grass on the other side of the fence.

    MS has in the past taken over development of 1st party apps, FB for WP being the prime example. I think what MS learned from that experience is that it’s not really a long term solution. There are some really good 3rd party apps for Twitter in the store, Tweetium being a prime example; it really shines when used with touch.

    With regards to Content Transfer, did you use the Phone Companion app? Did you install Cortana on your iPhone?

    The fact that Dropbox can be used as a default would seem to prove the point that Microsoft is open to 3rd parties and embracing what they are attached to, it’s up to iOS to make it available to their users that have Windows PCs.

  4. In case of Twitter, it’s Twitter’a fault really. They limited the number of tokens a 3rd party app can use a long while ago. Essentially, they limited the number of users any client can ultimately have.

    Not absolutely sure what the situation is right now though.

  5. If I understand correctly, the core argument in this article is based on the lack of iMessage and a good third party Twitter app on Windows.

    Are we sure that this isn’t just a technophile’s rant? Are we sure that this reflects the experience of the majority of users?

    From what I understand, messaging apps like WhatsApp and LINE were mobile first, and for a long time, mobile only. Allo is I think mobile only. Desktop is not a priority, even for the service-oriented companies. Furthermore, cross platform messaging apps that span iOS and Android already also exist in web app forms. I fail to see any significant benefit of moving iMessage to Windows desktop or a web app.

    Also for Twitter, what is the percentage of users that use third party clients? I’m pretty sure that the vast majority use the official client, which is available on both Mac and Windows. And as far as I can tell, the official client sucks equally badly on all platforms, but is what Twitter itself wants us all to experience.

    Although I too feel that Windows could use better apps, I think the discussion should focus more on the issues that the majority of people are likely to experience, not only the technophiles.

    1. I think the issue is that iMessage does not even have a Web client, so it’s completely unavailable outside of iPhones and Macs. It’s the only messaging platform I know of with that issue, now joined by Duo/Allo.

      As for bad Twitter apps on Windows… if only it was only that app… I find MS’s email client inferior to Android’s. Any of Android’s…

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