It’s been confirmed that Steve Jobs is taking medical leave, thanks to an Apple Media Advisory. There is no indication what the problem is, however the number of things that can affect someone in our age range (I’m a year younger than Steve Jobs) is somewhat frightening.
Needless to say, subdued cheering is being heard from Redmond. No one has done more direct damage to Microsoft than Steve Jobs.
The rivalry goes back a long way, to when DOS was the king of operating systems, and Apple introduced it’s first generation Graphic User Interface on the Lisa, and then delivered the less expensive but just as powerful Macintosh computer. Microsoft was working on their own GUI based operating system at the time, but Apple beat them to market. Apple not only beat Microsoft to market, they did so with a limited system which while it didn’t have all of the features that Windows would have, worked flawlessly.
Then Microsoft introduced Windows, using technology that the company had borrowed from Mac OS. Microsoft won in court when Apple sued, but there are still many Apple staffers who believe that Microsoft was guilty of massive copyright infringement in designing and selling Windows.
Over the years there have been a series of other conflicts between the two computing giants. The refusal of Apple to adopt Windows, and then Apple’s introduction of OS X, a solid Unix based operating system, which heavily borrowed from Free and Open Source software further embittered Microsoft, while allowing Apple to forge its own path forward.
The IPhone, which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claimed would be a massive failure, wasn’t. The IPad redefined the Tablet Computer market from a Windows market, to a device running anything but Windows.
Apple has taken control of the top end of the computer market. Check Amazon’s list of top selling computers, almost all of the top sellers over $1000.00 are Apple made.
So Microsoft has reason to dislike Steve Jobs. This may even look like an opportunity to them. Of course with product development times being what they are, Apple’s plans for the next year are already set in stone, and for the year after that are probably well laid out. So are Microsoft’s. And that’s the problem.
Apple’s best product designer is going to be off work for a while. Microsoft’s worst product designer is CEO, and appears to be running more and more of the divisions all by himself (think Robert Mulgia).
Meanwhile Linus Torvalds is working quietly away. Curiously the operating system kernel that he designed as a college project has now passed Apple in market share on phones, desktops, servers, and will pass Apple on tablets within a year. And the GNU project parts that Richard Stallman inspired are used on top of the Linux kernel to make up a complete operating system have also passed Apple for market share.
Apple doesn’t care about this. Apple’s a hardware company. As long as Apple is making a decent profit selling electronics, the company is happy. Microsoft on the other hand should be terrified. And not of Apple. Microsoft’s been concentrating on the wrong problem.
Monday January 17, 2011