Microsoft's stock price says it's in poor shape and while the new direction makes sense, it would already be doing much better if it had listened to what Apple's taught it over the decades. Here are a few lessons it should have learned:
Inspiration through good taste
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said:
"The only problem with Microsoft is that they have no taste. They have absolutely no taste… they don't think of original ideas and they don't bring much culture into their product," he said. "I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products. Their products have no spirit to them. They have no spirit of enlightenment about them. They are very pedestrian. The sad part is most customers don't have much of that spirit either. But the way we're going to ratchet up our species is to take the best and spread it around everybody, so everyone grows up with better things and starts to understand the subtlety of these better things. And Microsoft, is just McDonalds." Full video below.
Quality not quantity
The argument that product manufacturing always marches toward lowest cost and 'good enough' feature sets is repeated so often people think it true, but it's not. Critics apply this logic to the iPhone and Mac, but don't neglect that while Macs cost more they also offer more. This is why Macs have consistently outperformed Windows-based PC business for years. Apple's successes -- and broader economic realities -- prove the low price free market theory false.
In 1998 Apple simplified product offerings into four elements: portable and desktop Macs for consumer and pro users. Everything it has built since then reflects that simplicity, including a one-size-fits-all OS X upgrade scheme. Microsoft insists on a complex licensing system for its operating systems, designed (overtly) to maximize revenue at the cost of confusing customers. Most of us don't want to need to get a degree in available licensing deals when making a purchase. It shows.
Good products sell themselves
Steve Jobs again: "Many companies forget what it means to make great products. After initial success, sales and marketing people take over and the product people eventually make their way out."
Sales and marketing people find it a lot easier to sell things people already like. Focusing on what customers want is good business. Apple enjoys the highest customer satisfaction ratings in any industry because of this.
Apple works hard to ensure customers can achieve whatever it is they hope to achieve on its solutions. That focus on the customer journey is deep inside Apple's core, visible in its products, design, software -- even its retail and marketing teams. Apple's attempt to keep things simple creates a low friction environment for using and purchasing its products, simplifying the decision-making process. Has Microsoft ever managed this?
Apple stores are friendly and informal; you can drop in just to look around, attend an event or just use the in-store WiFi. If you buy something, you will be pointed to a product to suit your needs rather than Apple's revenue targets, and if you have a problem, Apple support has a world-class rep for helping you out. The result? It has happy, loyal and connected customers who will buy again from Apple. Microsoft meanwhile makes it challenging to even replace a lost Office for Mac authorization code.
These aren't the only lessons Apple's taught Microsoft over the years. It's just a shame it took until this year for its old competitor to begin to listen to them.
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