信心游戏

I’ve often downplayed the Microsoft-Apple rivalryIn large part this (my downplaying of the rivalry) is a reaction to the way that the mainstream tech press has, for nearly two decades, overplayed it.

苹果和微软不是直接的竞争对手Apple’s Macintosh business is built around selling computer hardware; their competitors in this market are companies like Dell and HP and Sony. Microsoft’s Windows business is built around selling operating systems to PC manufacturers; the only competition they face is from open source operating systems.

But there’s no denying the fact that they are, for lack of a better term, orthogonal rivalsWindows and Mac OS always have been and will be compared against each otherThe companies themselves are stark contrasts, as are their respective co-founders/leaders, Jobs and GatesThey produce software of almost completely opposite strengths and weaknesses.

And, it seems to me, the two companies’ fortunes often seem to be at odds.

Microsoft spent the ’90s growing from a successful software company into an industry-dominating titanApple spent much of the ’90s fighting the perception that it was on the verge of going out of business.

然而到目前为止,在00年代,事情已经摆脱了另一种方式Apple is firing on all cylinders — the whole iPod/iTunes thing, Mac OS X, the so far very successful transition to Intel processors — and Microsoft… well, whatthe deal with Microsoft? They’re certainly not doing poorly financially; theybooked $3.89 billion in profit-利润!- 在他们最近的一个季度That’s more than $1 billion in profit per month, and an 18-percent increase over their profit from the same quarter a year agoBut their stock priceon the news, because analysts expected even more. Their stock, in fact, has自2002年以来大致持平, and other than a spike at the tail end of the dot-com boom, hasn’t moved much since 1998.

It seems almost beyond dispute that there’s a deep malaise surrounding Windows Vista, Microsoft’s biggest and most important upcoming productMicrosoft has been late with major new operating systems before — in fact, to my memory, major new versions of Windows have总是arrived a year or two later than they were originally promisedThe biggest problem with Vista isn’t that it’s late, but that people don’t really seem to care that it’s late, because there doesn’t seem to be much in Vista that Windows users are dying for(Most of the cool features were cut during the development process.)

At least from my perspective here on the Mac side of the fence, it just doesn’t look like Windows Vista is going to offer much, if anything, to make Mac users envious.

这不是幸灾乐祸事实恰恰相反Another reason I’ve generally shied away from banging the Apple-vs.-Microsoft drum here on 万博manbetx贴吧 is to avoid falling into the all-too-accurate stereotype of the Microsoft-bashing Mac enthusiast. I understand the urge to root against Microsoft, the urge to gloat over their problems, the desire to see them suffer in the market.

But it won’t be good for Mac users if Vista turns out to be a dud. It might be good for苹果, but it won’t be good for Mac users. What would be good for Mac users is for Windows Vista to ship with innovative new features that are worth ripping off in a future version of Mac OS XPut another way: the better Windows is, the more pressure Apple is under to improve Mac OS X.

In the very worst tradition of punditry, allow me to make a sweeping generalization based on a few almost completely unrelated observations: Microsoft is suffering from a lack of confidence, and Apple is brimming with it.

微软需要敌人

It is, admittedly, a cliché, but Microsoft is clearly a victim of its own staggering successWhat they’ve done best, historically, is kill and/or neuter their competitorsThat’s why they’re gearing up for a fight against Google; Microsoft, as a company, defines itself by its rivalriesThey relegated early PC peers like WordPerfect, Lotus, and Borland to relative obscurity; then, famously, they outright obliterated Netscape.

In the ’90s, to sell copies of Word, they needed to beat WordPerfect, and they did; to sell Excel, they needed to beat Lotus 1-2-3Now, though, to sell new copies of Microsoft Office, they need to beat older copies of Microsoft OfficeHence the备受诟病的广告in which Microsoft casts their own users as dinosaurs simply because they haven’t upgraded to the latest version of Office.

Most of the criticism of these ads revolves around the fact that it’s a bad idea to insult your own customersBut what I found interesting about them is the tacit acknowledgment that Microsoft’s strongest competitor in today’s office software market isn’t OpenOffice, or any other competing suite from another company, but rather the Microsoft of a decade ago.

The problem with Google, as an “enemy” for Microsoft, is that Google is even less of a direct rival to Microsoft than Apple isMicrosoft sells software谷歌不销售软件The only way for Microsoft to “beat” Google is for one of the two companies to enter the other one’s marketGoogle doesn’t seem the least bit interested in selling operating systems or office software — and even if they do eventually enter those markets, it would likely be with software theyin order to generate advertising revenue. Microsoft’s previous corporate rivals were companies that helped Microsoft focus on its core competency: selling and developing PC software对谷歌的迷恋吸引他们从那个焦点。

Which leads me to the aforementioned observation from which I drew the conclusion that Microsoft has a confidence problem — this full page ad on p2006年5月22日“纽约客”第33期:

来自p的微软'people_ready'广告2006年5月22日纽约人中的33人。

I’ll reproduce the text of the ad below, but I’ve posted a much larger copy of the image over on Flickr so you can examine it yourself.1广告上写着:

欢迎来到people_ready业务。

在人员准备的业务中,人们会实现这一目标People, ready with software.When you give your people tools that connect, inform, and empower them, they’re readyReady to collaborate with partners, suppliers, and customersReady to streamline the supply chain, beat impossible deadlines, and develop ideas that can sway the course of industryReady to build a successful business: a people-ready business微软Software for the people-ready business要了解更多信息,请访问microsoft.com/peopleready

Please note: I venture into the following criticism knowing perfectly well that there is nothing more trite than a Mac nerd mocking Microsoft marketing material但是这里:

这到底是什么意思呢?

E.g., if “people make it happen” in a people-ready business, who or what makes it happen in non-people-ready businesses? Or is it not possible for “it” to happen in a non-people-ready business? I dare you to try to make this copy more devoid of actual meaning than it already isIf there’s any logic at all, it’s circular: that the people in a people-ready business are ready to build a people-ready business.

And what’s the point of the decorative underscores — the “people_ready” in the headline and the four “ready_”s tagging some of the people in the photo?2

This ad epitomizes everything that’s wrong with Microsoft: they have nothing new to offerThere’s nothing wrong with branding ads; I喜欢品牌广告(例如Nike’s “Just Do It” and Apple’s “Think Different” campaigns)But if this “people_ready” ad is supposed to be about their brand, what is the message? The only message I can suss from it is “Buy Microsoft software just because it’s Microsoft software.” They would be better off running an ad that literally reads “No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft” — at least that would be bold.

I’m sure that when Vista and Office 2007 finally ship, Microsoft will run plenty of ads touting tangible features of these products. But this ad reeks to high hell of “We’ve got lots of money in the ad budget but no new products to advertise, so we’ll buy some ads that say nothing at all.”

这则广告几乎令人反感胆怯And “timid” is not a word normally associated with Microsoft — or any thriving company, for that matter.

Apple和新MacBooks

几个月前,在“iPod Juggernaut”, I emphasized this quote from Steve Jobs from a两年前的新闻周刊采访, regarding the Mac’s relatively meager market share:

If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, tooOnce a company devises a great product, he says, it has a monopoly in that realm, and concentrates less on innovation than protecting its turf“The Mac-user interface was a 10-year monopoly,” says Jobs“Who ended up running the company?销售人员。At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profitsThey made obscene profits for several years他们的产品变得平庸And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.”

My point then was to emphasize how with the iPod, Apple is going for market share, not per-unit profits: iPods tend to costthan comparable products from other companies.

But this sort of “guard the profit margins” strategy has in many ways continued to undergird Apple’s Mac strategy in recent yearsI always liked Apple’s iBook laptops, but it was often quite obvious that Apple crippled the machines in certain ways so as to protect the sales of higher-profit PowerBooks例子:

  • Rather than give the 14-inch iBook a higher-resolution display, it ran at the same 1024 × 768 resolution as the 12-inch iBookYou got bigger pixels instead of more pixels.

  • iBook video cards were capable of desktop spanning with an external display, but without the use ofunsupported third-party hacks, they only supported external displays to mirror the built-in display.

  • iBooks通常比PowerBooks慢得多。

新款MacBook并非如此For $1099, you can get a MacBook today that’s almost every bit as good as the $1999 MacBook Pro thatfirst shipped just three months ago

The differences between the MacBooks and MacBook Pros are simple and obvious: bigger screens, more ports and an expansion slot, backlit keyboards, and a different case finishOther than for high-end video (and gaming, which today is more video-card-dependent than processor-dependent), performance is not a differentiating factor.MacBook很快

A more cautious decision would have been to equip the MacBooks with the slower Core Solo processor (as used in the Mac Mini), maintaining a similar relative performance gap between the MacBooks and MacBook Pros as there was between the iBooks and PowerBooks.

I don’t see how anyone can doubt that there are many people who, if the MacBooks had shipped with Core Solo processors, would have bought a MacBook Pro but who will instead now buy a (cheaper, less profitable) MacBook insteadThe $1099 MacBooks arguably offer the most bang for the buck in any Mac that Apple has ever shipped.

Apple, it seems clear, is confident that they’re going to make it up in volume.

并列

I offer this juxtaposition between Apple and Microsoft simply as an interesting contrast.

Confidence can lead to arrogance, both in individuals and in organizations, but I don’t see that happening with Apple todayIt was arrogance in the ’80s when the Sculley regime maintained almost absurd profit margins on Macintosh hardwareToday, Apple’s confidence is leading them to降低他们的价格,而不是提高他们。

它还引领他们简化他们的产品线The new MacBooks replace both the entire iBook linethe 12-inch PowerBook.3

Maybe the lesson here is that you can’t make a billion dollars a month in profit with a simple line of simple productsWhat I’d like to think, though, is that the lesson is that good design can be good business.

相比之下,微软计划提供Windows Vista不同的版本: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Small Business, Enterprise, and UltimateThe names read like something out of洋葱

Can anyone explain how this seven-tiered edition plan is good for anyone other than the managers within Microsoft’s bureaucracy? Microsoft is turning into a company that values management decisions that increase complexity over design decisions that increase clarity.

Or perhaps they’ve always had such values, but are only now succumbing to the weight of the complexity of their systems and processesDerek Denny-Brown (a former Microsoft technical lead) offered this insightful评估Vista的发展a month ago:

Anyone who has read any modern management book (or lived in the trenches) [knows that] more people does not equate to more features[…] Vista isn’t neutered and delayed because of any lack of peopleIt is a mess because of middle management. In a large project, complexity is a logarithmic on connections3 万博提款要多久 is 2× as complicated as 2 万博提款要多久…. roughly.

它变得更糟At least at the time I left (6 months ago), I saw very little evidence that the management of these failed 万博提款要多久 was getting any kind of a slap on the wristThe problem is that in an org that large with that [many] dependencies, it was impossible to tell which team was actually mismanaged, and which team just was dragged down by the other mismanaged teams.

This is how a company with so many talented programmers can spend six years developing an operating system that no one is excited about.

厄普顿辛克莱, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

That’s why it’s so hard for a company to break out of a slump induced by poor management: the only ones who can address the problem are the managers themselves.


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  2. 除了无耻的剽窃之外日产的“Shift_”广告系列就是这样。↩︎

  3. 它们比12英寸PowerBook宽几英寸,为Apple的便携式产品系列提供了前所未有的空间:一直是空置的:“MacBook Mini”子笔记本。↩︎

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