For decades, Microsoft Windows users have been engaged in a debate with supporters of Apple’s Macs over who had the superior platform. This was, at root, a conflict precipitated by the very public rivalry between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
As Matt Weinberger observed recently in Business Insider: ‘Eventually things settled into a duopoly, as Apple found its niche as the maker of premium hardware for the culture-conscious, and Windows PCs earned a reputation as the computer of the mainstream, especially for gamers and office workers.’
But now, after years of stability, change is on the horizon in the PC market. Former Apple lovers are starting to reconsider Windows. It’s a huge renaissance for Windows, coming at a time when increasing numbers of Apple fans feel like the company is treating the Mac like an afterthought.
Battle of the Smartphones
Apple opened the door for users to install Windows on Macs, and Microsoft made truckloads of cash selling Office and its associated services on iPhone and iPad. It was quiet on the PC front as the battle moved to the smartphone.
Many Mac users have become disenchanted, as the iPhone, iPad and then the iPad Pro became the focus of the company. The Mac message appeared to be simple: why do you even need a computer when a tablet and phone can do it all anyway?
Adds Matt Weinberger: ‘As a result, Apple’s focus on the Mac waned: the hardware didn’t receive an update for over four years, and then OSX, once regularly updated with interesting features, now only receives the scraps from iOS.’
Apple’s Ease of Purchase
Part of the reason for the ascendancy of Mac was always ease of purchase. Apple has several product lines to choose from — MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, plus the iMac, the MacPro and the Mac Mini.
Plus, Apple offers a streamlined shopping process, taking a lot of the stress out of computer purchasing. Walk into an Apple Store with your budget set, and Apple has the right laptop for that price point.
Enter the Microsoft Store
While they’re not as common as the Apple Store in most places, the company has made a big bet on the Microsoft Store, where the company showcases a relative select few Windows laptops and tablets, with employees on hand to guide you through the process and offer technical support.
This represents a welcome change from the past, when just browsing the PC section at any given store involved comparing a lot of very similar looking machines, all with very slight variations on screen resolution, processor speed, memory, and other applications.
The Longtime Strength of Windows
One of the longtime strengths of Windows was that you could get it on expensive, high-end gaming PCs. Or you can get it on the cheap $200 laptops you find at Walmart. It’s been this way since Windows launched in the 80’s.
As an operating system company, not primarily a hardware company, Microsoft likes the idea of Windows making its way to computers of all shapes and sizes. The variety and choice available to the consumer is a wonderful thing, but it also increases complexity and the difficulty of making a buying decision.
Microsoft’s Increasing Competitive Advantage
Concludes Matt Weinberger: ‘… Microsoft is attacking Apple’s market position with its Surface line of hardware. In the same way that this year’s MacBook is better than last year’s MacBook, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is better than the Surface Pro 3, which is better than the 2. It’s a logical way to label its own premium hardware line that makes things clear to customers without going into the specs.’
The Bottom Line
Still, not everybody can go to a Microsoft Store, and not everybody can afford those higher-end machines. A lot of shoppers will end up just buying what’s on sale at Best Buy or Costco that week and moving on with their lives.