Microsoft takes page from Apple

2012-06-20 08:39

Washington - With its new tablet computer, Microsoft is taking a page from Apple's playbook in an effort to control both hardware and software for computers, in a strategy which carries some risk, analysts say.

With the tech landscape rapidly shifting, Microsoft is being forced to shift to the "vertical" strategy employed by Apple and Google, aiming to keep in touch with users with hardware, search functions and software.

"Apple created this new environment with these new products and cloud services. All Microsoft has to do is offer the same thing under their brand name," said independent analyst Jeff Kagan.

"Microsoft will have to refresh their brand. Right now the Microsoft brand is like dear old grandpa. It needs to be invigorated."

The new landscape will see these three big players, Microsoft, Google and Apple, competing more directly on each other's territory, analysts say. Other smaller players include Amazon, which has its own hardware devices, and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion.

Google is widely expected to launch its own branded tablet as well and a phone that may carry its own brand or that of its new acquisition, Motorola Mobility.

"It's about controlling the user experience, which is segmented and fragmented," said analyst Ramon Llamas at IDC.

"It really helps to have a presence on all the screens," including mobile phones, PCs, TVs and tablets, he said.

To carry out the strategy, Llamas said Microsoft also needs to beef up its applications available. He said it now has some 100 000 for Windows mobile phones, many of which could be adapted for tablets, trailing Android and Apple.


But it's not clear if Microsoft, even with its market muscle, can generate the same kinds of apps that drive the experience for tablet users.

"If you're an app developer, you are already programming for Apple and for Android and you want to know what the market is in Windows, what is the revenue opportunity," he said.

"Without apps, you will have a piece of glass and metal that surfs the Web and not much else."

Jack Gold of J Gold Associates said Microsoft is trying to defend its Windows brand - the operating system used on most personal computers - with the strategy, but also runs the risk of alienating the PC makers which provide most of the revenue to the software giant.

"If they're not careful they could turn off some of those [PC makers] and force them into something else, like Android."

Android is the operating system used on mobile devices from Google, which is likewise developing a strategy that includes gadgets as well as software and search to keep its users in the "ecosystem".

Gold said Microsoft needs to look forward but not too far ahead.

"I don't believe the PC model is going away any time soon, but it is changing and morphing," he said.

If Microsoft tries to grab too much control of hardware, it risks alienating the big PC makers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.

Windows is close to zero

Even though Apple has succeeded in this "walled garden" approach, it might not work for Microsoft.

"If you try to limit innovation to a single company, ultimately you're undercutting the ability of the market to innovate," Gold said.

Gold said Microsoft acted on tablets because "the tablet market in Windows is close to zero".

"They are trying to kick-start the high end of the market, and if they limit it to that they would be OK." he said.

"But if they start competing with Acers and Lenovos it's going to be a problem. It could push them into the Android camp."

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said the move by Microsoft "shows just how concerned they are about Apple and the threat Apple is to their ecosystem right now".

But he added that Microsoft may not be able to duplicate the success of Apple: "The only company that has been good at being Apple is Apple."

  • wesley.bischoff - 2012-06-20 08:56

    Apples playbook? I wasn't aware they make the playbook. Hmmm

      mdubane.dube - 2012-06-20 09:32

      But you get what he's trying to say

      ammpike - 2012-06-27 07:38

      playbook belongs to black berry it a typing error

  • lydonmcg - 2012-06-20 09:07

    How can a tech journalist confuse the iPad with a "playbook?"

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-06-20 09:10

    Doesn't matter, apple got the idea from microsoft in the first place.

  • johnwoodman8 - 2012-06-20 09:35

    SHOCKING journalism.... do you people actually get paid to perform this badly?

  • maharaj.santosh - 2012-06-20 09:43

    Idiots playbook means stragey not product. Think before you make dumb comments.

      alphonso.burger - 2012-06-20 09:53

      Read up before making an even dumber one :P The "playbook" is a Backberry device. It is the name of their own tablet. The journalist must have gotten mixed up somehow.

      maharaj.santosh - 2012-06-20 10:16

      alphonso.burger I cant belive that you are are even dumber than the 1st two idiots who commented. Let me give you a run down in regards to the tablet market. Playbook is a blackberry tablet no one disputes that. Just like IPAD is an Apple product. And Galaxy Tab is a samsung product. But in this case the reporter used the word "playbook" to represent the Stragey of the company and in no way makes reference to the blackberry product. GO back to school and learn english

      paul.bester1 - 2012-06-28 15:30

      I'm sorry maharaj.santosh but you have no right to refer to other people as idiots and asking them to learn english if in both cases you say "stragey" when I think you mean "Strategy". Yes, in this case, the article IS referring to strategy as the word "playbook" is typed in lower case, but it's also a bit wrong to use that term knowing full well that BlackBerry uses it to refer to their product. The journo should have rather used the word "strategy" to avoid confusion.

  • thando.gqabaza - 2012-06-20 10:05

    Microsoft first presented tablets in 2002 - poor headline

      raath - 2012-06-21 14:11

      The only tablets which you get with a Microsoft OS are headache tablets.

  • Jean-pierre - 2012-06-20 10:27

    Ok the tablet idea was first brought out by microsoft 2002 already where exactly did this reporter get his facts from?

  • george.cooper2 - 2012-06-20 10:39

    To everyone saying that Microsoft made it first, or that the use of the term playbook in the title is wrong: Yes, if the author used the term playbook in the way you are suggesting (ie. that they copied the iPad or that they are mistakenly referring to the product with the same name), it would have been incorrect. However, if you read the first paragraph you'll see that the author is referring to Microsoft's new strategy to produce both the software and the hardware on which it runs and not the fact that the Surface is an iPad copy. The title is therefore not misleading, as this is a strategy that has been used by Apple for ages. Similarly, with this adoption of strategy in mind, the rest of the article is quite acceptable by news24's current standards.

      maharaj.santosh - 2012-06-20 10:49

      finally an educated person who understands english

      thando.gqabaza - 2012-06-20 10:57

      fair enough

      raath - 2012-06-21 14:12

      Isn't the RIM tablet called the Playbook?

  • kseyffert - 2012-06-20 12:29

    I have said it once before and I'll say it again, Trust microsoft to support their own hardware, yea right!

  • mpho.d.rambuda - 2012-06-20 17:33

    Can't wait for this, good that I didn't hurry for iPad 3. Am tired of the control freak that is Apple.

      raath - 2012-06-21 14:12

      Microsoft tablet. Viruses on the go.

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