Published on August 10, 2009

This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.

Daring Fireball had another insightful article on the contrasting product strategies of Microsoft and Apple last week. Well worth a read in its entirety if you’re thinking about your own product strategy.

A few observations were particularly trenchant and relevant to me in light of my own recent experience:

Microsoft is no longer ignoring Apple’s market share gains and successful “Get a Mac” ad campaign. But the crux of these ads from Apple is that Macs are better; Microsoft’s response is a message that everyone already knows — that Windows PCs are cheaper. Their marketing and retail executives publicly espouse the opinion that, now that everyone sees Apple computers as cool, Microsoft has Apple right where they want them.

They’re a software company whose primary platform no longer appeals to people who like computers the most. Their executives are either in denial of, or do not perceive, that there has emerged a consensus — not just among nerds but among a growing number of regular just-plain users — that Windows PCs are second-rate. They still dominate in terms of unit-sale market share, yes, but not because people don’t recognize Windows as second-rate, but because they don’t care, in the same way millions of people buy metric tons of second-rate products from Wal-Mart every hour of every day.

That’s the business Wal-Mart wants to be in — selling a zillion cheap low-margin items and turning a profit on volume. That’s not the business Microsoft is in.

The truth of this was particularly relevant to me because just a few hours before reading this, I had spilled a full glass of water all over the keyboard of my laptop. An occupational hazard of talking a lot with your hands, but one I’d successfully resisted for the last two years, since my last such incident. It’s a still rather painful memory.I had spilled half a glass of wine on my pc, thanks to my

I had spilled half a glass of wine on my pc, thanks to my one-year-old daughter’s enthusiastic hand waving (it runs in the family.) As I frantically tried to sop up the spilled liquid while turning off the pc, I heard the hiss and crackle that told me I was in trouble. The next day I went in and had one of our infrastructure folks see what they could do while trying to restore onto one of our spare PCs from my backup. It was very frustrating, wasted about two days of my time and quite a few hours from our staff, but I eventually got back up and running, minus a half day’s and an evening’s work that had been on my laptop.

Contrast that with my experience last week: I had since switched to a mac, have loved it, and switched my wife to a mac as well. My wife loves it, and I now hardly ever hear her calling “hon, it’s not working” from her home office, something which happened at least a few nights a week when she had a pc. My experience last week just reinforced what a good decision it was. When the spill happened (a nearly full glass of water, all over my keyboard) I did the same thing as last time, shut down the computer, sopped up the wetness, turned the laptop over and called support. No sizzle. Within an hour, I was back up and running on one of our spare Macs with practically no data loss, thanks to my continuous Time Machine backup. Worth the extra money? For both me and my company, the answer is a resounding YES!

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