Microsoft and Apple- both these tech giants brought computers to the fingertips of people all around the world. Both got their start around the same time and both became iconic worldwide brands in a short period of time. Both diversified in different directions yet still competed fiercely for market share. But who delivers the better products? And who, out of these two, are the more user friendly and globally compatible? Which of these two giants is the biggest, the best, the fairest, and ultimately superior? They both have their own pros and cons for sure.
In the red corner Microsoft begun its humble life with Paul Allen and Bill Gates who began working together and eventually developed MS-DOS in the mid-1980s. Allen and Gates had been childhood friends since 1972 and enjoyed nothing more than pulling things apart and putting them together again. Gates studied at Harvard while Allen got his degree at Washington State University. They officially formed Microsoft in 1975, and their DOS system rose to dominate the home computer market. Once Microsoft Windows was created the company made its initial public offering in 1986 and enjoyed a sharp rise in share prices. Today, Microsoft develops computer software, personal computers, internet browsers, and also gaming products such as the Xbox Video game machine. It is the world’s largest software maker by revenue and one of the world’s richest companies, creating 3 billionaires, and 12,000 millionaires among its own employees. And over in the blue corner are Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne who founded Apple in 1976 and developed the Apple 1 personal computer.
Sales of Apple 2 saw some growth in the company and a few years later Apple had hired a staff of designers and production line workers. Apple shares were sold to the public in 1980 and enjoyed instant financial success. Apple is now the world’s most valuable technological company and true innovators in terms of product design and software. They don’t always get there first but they normally design the product that the world finds the most valuable, like the iPhone for example- not the first commercial cell phone by any means but perhaps the most desirable tech product in the marketplace, and possibly one of the world’s most iconic pieces of hardware. As their fortunes have grown both companies have been aggressive in the art of acquisition and mergers. Microsoft has had 217 acquisitions including Skype, Linkedin, Hotmail, Nokia phones, and Panda networks. Apple has acquired 94 companies, including Orion Network Systems, Soundjam, Silicon Color, the voice control software Siri, and Beats Electronic. Between Apple and Microsoft over 300 smaller tech companies have been swallowed up. Apple is the current leader when it comes to brand respectability and profits. But the competition doesn’t end there. While Apple is larger than Microsoft, is more valuable, and has more financial clout, Microsoft’s stock on the exchange markets grew much faster according to a 2016 finance journal.
This suggests that from an investor’s viewpoint Apple has had its day in the sun. In 2016 shares of Microsoft were up 26.5% over the previous year, while at the same time Apple took a 18.4% decline. More up to date statistics tell a different story. The 2018 Forbes report ranked Apple as the number 8 company in the world with a value of $926.9 billion. Apple ranks number 96 in Assets and is considered the world’s most valuable brand. Apple is also America’s largest public company. Microsoft meanwhile is ranked at number 30 with $750.6 billion. It is ranked number 56 in sales, number 22 in profit, and number 140 in assets. Microsoft is the world’s third most valuable brand, and America’s 9th largest public company. So when it comes to the hard figures Apple is the clear winner, but Microsoft isn’t far behind. Microsoft spent over twenty years leading the desktop market with windows. They were a little late to the cell phone party, but they do have some interesting new products such as the MS surface and Surface Studios. Two companies competing for the same market share are bound to bump shoulders in court now and again.
Apple and Microsoft came up head to head early on in a 1994 copyright infringement case whereby Apple tried to prevent Microsoft from using visual graphic user interface elements that were similar to those used in Apple’s operating systems. The court ruled that Apple could not get patent protection for the idea of a graphical user interface. Both Apple and Microsoft, along with giants Samsung are big spenders when it comes to patent protections and patent litigations- the tech world is heavily invested into protecting what they create. According to a Stanford University survey as much as $20 billion dollars was spent on both patent protection and patent litigation in the Smartphone industry alone over a period of two years. That’s enough cash to finance eight Mars rover missions. The stakes are high when it comes to protecting your technological babies and both Apple and Microsoft have to keep their new technologies safe and sound and wrapped up in patented cotton wool like the priceless little creations they are. Perhaps the truth is one brand is not better than the other, but they do both have their own domains.
Apple has undoubtedly a superior brand respect. Their products are cool and people desire them. Steve Jobs had a vision that computers were not only business tools, they could be brought into the home, whereas Microsoft was focusing firmly on the business office market – at least at first. Apples vision along with an excellent cutting edge development and marketing team and the simplicity of their products have made Apple appear, as a brand at least, to be the victor in this battle. They also limited the market with their own apple store and brand specific hardware and software. Whether this is a good thing for the consumer or not is open to debate but one has to admit that when it comes to branding, Apple is king. Apple often employs product placement in television and feature films- audiences want to emulate celebrities and if they see they favorite star using an Apple product (simply because Apple paid the producers of the show to use their product) well, that’s a win for Apple.
Apple will also supply schools with Apple desktops to have the younger generations touch their products and become used to handling them. Apple designs cool posters, and has a desirable brand presence in all corners of the globe. In certain parts of the world owning an Apple iPhone is almost essential, in other parts of the world an iPhone is a privilege. Microsoft on the other hand holds 85% of the desktop market and without Microsoft we would have no Windows, no Hotmail or Windows Live, no affordable products and no interchangeable components. Being tied to one brand may seem clever, but for the consumer it kinda sucks. Apple has a sleek line of brand products and has changed the way tech companies brand themselves. Microsoft has given the world computers at an affordable price.
They have made it possible for people across the world to join in on the computer world. Microsoft has changed lives in a positive way at an affordable price with no fancy branding tricks and gimmicks. In the end, it would be a shame to live in a world where we only had one choice – Apple or Microsoft. Ultimately, it really is a personal choice. Do you desire a product that is cheap and can be upgraded and adapted easily? Or would you prefer to be locked into one super sleek brand? So just who are the winners in this bout? The sleek Apple or the versatile affordable Microsoft? Let us know by voting in the comments below.