Microsoft robbers confirm it's an Apple age

As an Apple-flavored CES opens its doors, comes further proof that the Microsoft age is over, and Apple [AAPL] holds the hearts and minds of the Post-PC generation: When burglars robbed a Microsoft office last week, they took the iPads, but left all the Windows devices behind.

[ABOVE: This is not a Surface, and it seems Microsoft's burglars know this. Maybe.]

Won't touch this

That's an opinion, here's the story:

A local Friday report from Palo Alto's Daily Post informs us that Microsoft's Mountain View campus was robbed at some point across the Christmas period.

Verbatim:

"Microsoft's campus in Mountain View is presumably loaded with Microsoft's latest and greatest products, but a thief decided to steal five Apple iPads from the company's offices instead."

Burglars raided three of Microsoft's offices, making off with the iPads. "No Microsoft products were reported stolen," the report informs.

I'll grant that it's likely the thief was looking for portable, high-value items to steal. I'll also accept that iPads are incredibly popular and any Surface tablets that may (or may not, I don't know) have been in the office won't have seemed so attractive as they don't have the kind of cachet it takes to get good money on the black market, but that's the point:

Microsoft has become so bland there's no street value in its products. PCs are cheap and unexciting; Windows 8 has failed to set the world on fire; Surface sales are reportedly disappointing.

Apple on fire

Apple -- despite the negative press thrown at the company -- is on fire. Even the firm's current determination (in common with other major multinationals) to do all it can to legally avoid paying corporation tax even while governments worldwide cut social care doesn't seem enough to cut its connection with its customers.

You need to look to the street to see the future. The future isn't visible in focus groups, analyst reports or on TV; you see it in the trends that take place below the margin of so-called "civilized society".

Reports that New York police note an iDevice-driven crime wave, or burglars hit a Microsoft office solely to take Apple products: such data confirms the high status Apple has achieved for its products.

You see, those millions of iPads sold so far don't disappear when customers upgrade their tablets -- they get moved on within families, sold between friends, shifted on the second hand market. They get used and continue to hold value.

Their fate is very different from that afflicting those netbooks the PC industry once bet the farm on. Those things are filed in the bottom drawer where people keep such broken dreams, pending exorcism from homes and offices toward the electronics recycling bins situated just near our local shopping malls.

The end of Empire

In a sense the decline of Microsoft is fitting punishment for a company that denied consumer choice through what was later found to be illegally anti-competitive behavior. Once its license to behave in such a manner was removed, its decline was inevitable -- the only shock is to see just how slippery a slope the company is on.  Even pro-Windows pundits see this decline.

These days even burglars won't touch a Microsoft product.

That's testament to the success of Apple's product strategy since 1998: to deliver best-in-class devices that match consumer need; systems which meld technological advancement with the collective zeitgeist; to seed the planet with well-designed, simple, attractive things people want to use.

That's why the stars at CES this year will once again be Apple-related devices (and Android-related solutions to a lesser extent).

We can expect the annual gathering of tablets that will never ship and strangely complicated solutions assembled to meet some dated 90's vision of business-to-business devices in which productivity demands life-devouring complexity ahead of convenience and control.

There will be a few new technologies and the usual long and somewhat uninspired speeches from people propelled into leadership positions within the tech industry by virtue of a corporate promotion, rather than through any visionary zeal. There will also be a few presentations peppered with real visionary vigor.

Microsoft won't be at CES this year.

Apple has never exhibited at the show.

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