Competitive Strategies: Apple vs. Microsoft This Case study will focus on the competitive strategies of the following Apple vs. Microsoft. Apple Inc. , formerly Apple Computer, Inc. , is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Cupertino, California that designs, develops, and sells consumer electronics, computer software and personal computers. Microsoft is a multinational computer technology corporation. The history of Microsoft began on April 4, 1975, when it was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque.
Its current best-selling products are the Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Since the mid-80s Apple and Microsoft have been locked in a heavy weight battle to become king in the technology industry. While Apple released its first Macintosh computer in 1984, Microsoft followed shortly after with the release of Windows 1. 0 just a year later. The two struggled to gain a foothold on the market, and have been trying to outdo one another ever since. Corporate Culture Apple has long been known to have a very uncompromising corporate culture.
For years Steve Jobs ran the company as a perfectionist who, while very successful, was not typically willing to alter his vision in any way. Where some corporations are collaboration between the ideas of many individuals with some give and take, Apple products were almost one hundred percent Steve Jobs uncompromising vision. With Microsoft Windows maintaining a huge market share in the personal computing business, Apple never swayed from the concept of putting their Mac OS only on Apple hardware, instead of licensing it to various hardware manufacturers so that it may be on a wide variety of systems.
Apple has always been about the vision of Steve Jobs, and the man was almost more of a designer than a technology guru, which is an indication of why the Apple iPhone with its superior design has been so successful. Another noticeable concept of Apple’s corporate culture is its secrecy with new products. Whether it is the new iPhone, iPad, or Mac OS operating system Apple does not let any information leak until that calculated moment that they choose to announce is to the world. That moment tends to be very shortly before the product is set to launch.
Microsoft on the other hand tends to have a more traditional, hierarchal type of corporate culture. With thousands of employees at their corporate headquarters their products are a true collaboration of ideas from a vast number of product design and computer engineer professionals. Though Bill Gates has a vision for what he wants the Microsoft brand to be, he entrusts his employees to come together to develop solutions. Also unlike Apple, Microsoft’s strategy is to get their Windows operating system out there on the widest number of machines possible.
Gates learned long ago that by licensing his operating system and getting it into the hands of a number of hardware manufacturers Microsoft would maintain a convincing lead in personal computing market. Another difference in the culture of Microsoft is the level of secrecy. Microsoft release information months before a product is set to be released. Rather than keep things under wraps until launch week they put out teasers for new products and release some beta builds of the newest version of Windows as a test.
It is common for a PC user to have the final release candidate of the next Windows operating system months before that system is officially released. How has each culture benefitted from the competition? The culture of Apple has benefitted from the pressure applied by Microsoft in several ways. First, due to Microsoft’s dominance in the personal computing market Apple’s design-centric culture has allowed it to take charge in the mobile market.
It may be too late for them to unseat Microsoft as the leader in home computers, but they have been able to use the meticulous design approach of Steve Jobs to branch out to create the iPhone which stands above the rest in terms of public perception and it is primarily due to the elegant design. Apple’s opposite approach in secrecy has also benefitted in a way from Microsoft’s willingness to leak information about upcoming products. Part of the iPhone craze is a build up of anticipation for each new release.
The public doesn’t even get a small taste of what the next iPhone will be like until Apple decides to officially announce it which sets them apart because it is so different from one of their largest competitors in the information technology field. Microsoft’s culture has benefitted from Apples competition as well. While Apple is a culture focused on design and being “in”, Microsoft remains strong in the personal computing market because they attack things from a business and productivity perspective.
Even though most consumers will use their computers for entertainment purposes, Microsoft develops and markets their software with productivity in mind with things like Microsoft Office because they realize that even if people primarily use their computer for entertainment, those same people will also have a need for more business type tools like Microsoft Office. Microsoft’s business model of licensing Windows to various manufacturers of PCs is also rewarded in part by Apple’s complete reluctance to do so. When it comes to a computer the bottom line with most consumers is going to be cost.
If they can get a computer manufactured by Toshiba with Windows on it for the same price as a Mac with the exact same technical specifications they are almost always going to choose the lower cost of the PC with Windows. Another way in which Microsoft’s corporate culture has benefitted from Apple is the way in which they’ve branched out into the mobile market. Due to Apple’s success with the iPhone and iPad, Microsoft has been making a strong push to join them in that market space with the newest Windows Phone and the Windows tablets.
This is a new endeavor for Microsoft so it remains to be seen how much traction they will gain, but one thing that may be in their favor with tablets in particular is that they are available from a growing number of manufacturers and will provide a familiar feel to those who have been long time Windows PC users. What if the culture changed? If Apple’s culture were forced to change there are a couple of things that could happen to maintain success. With the passing of Steve Jobs and the arrival of his replacement Tim Cook, it remains to be seen how the brand may change if at all.
One thing that could be altered is the proprietary mindset of the corporation which demands that only Mac OS be distributed on actual Mac branded hardware. If Apple were to change this and begin offering their operating system to Dell, HP, Toshiba, and others like Microsoft does it may gain some ground in that market. If Microsoft’s culture were forced to change it could still thrive if it would adapt to be a little more like Apple when it comes to the Windows Phone.
As it stands Microsoft uses different smartphone manufacturers to put out devices with Windows 8 on it, however in this particular market the general public is enamored by superior design and consistency. If Microsoft were to start putting out just one Microsoft branded Windows Phone like Apple does with the iPhone they could join the competition that is currently primarily between Apple and Google Android. References Grossman L. No 3: THE TECHNOLOGIST TIM COOK. Time [serial online]. December 31, 2012;180(27):112-118. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA.
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