Is Microsoft the new Apple?

This week's hyped rollouts of the Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8 OS has the tech world abuzz, leading some to wonder if Microsoft has Apple-fied its image.

By TheWeek.com Jun 22, 2012 3:19PM

By most measures, Apple (AAPL) stands astride the tech world like a colossus, conquering one gadget class after another -- digital music players, smartphones, tablets -- and making almost unimaginable profits from its buzzy, innovative objects of tech desire.


At the same time, Microsoft (MSFT) -- which had crushed Apple into near-irrelevance 13 years ago -- went from resting on its Windows/Office laurels to "sinking ship" territory.


Not anymore, says Gizmodo's Adrian Covert. With this week's dual rollout of its Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8 operating system, plus other recent innovations like SmartGlass and the Kinect, "I'm a believer that Microsoft is the most innovative consumer tech company right now. No, seriously." (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)


Has Microsoft, in essence, become the new Apple?


Apple has been eclipsed: I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but Microsoft is now "the most exciting company in tech, hands down," says Gizmodo's Covert. Apple had a good run, but Microsoft is on a tear, creating gorgeous, user-friendly software, and now hardware that's "damn near seductive" and geared toward future growth. "Even more crucially, Microsoft has been improving on existing ideas, rather than just making competent facsimiles" of Apple and Google products. 


No. It's Apple's world, and Microsoft just lives in it: Building the Surface "is a bold move," but it seems more a rushed reaction to Apple's ascendancy than a rebirth, says John Gruber at Daring Fireball. Thanks to the dominance of its highly profitable iPads, iPhones, and Macs, "Apple is now the strongest and most successful company in the world, across any and all industries." Microsoft is being forced to adapt because its business model of selling expensive software for cheap hardware is unsustainable.


Microsoft has at least achieved Apple-level buzz: Nobody knows how Microsoft's new products will stack up in the real world, says Preston Gralla at Computerworld. But "when it comes to PR and hype," it's pretty clear that "Microsoft is the new Apple." Just look at the Surface rollout -- for days beforehand, Microsoft saw the type of "hyperventilation" and wild rumors "normally reserved for Apple announcements or coverage of the choice of a new pope." The event itself was meh -- "Steve Ballmer is no Steve Jobs, and never will be" -- but even if the Surface flops versus the iPad, Apple just lost one crown to Microsoft, "the new king of PR."


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