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Opinion: Is Steve Woz right about Microsoft’s innovation?

Published by on Nov 26th, 2012, 4 Comments

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was at TEDx Brussels in mid-November, where after in an interview with TechCrunch he spoke about Apple’s innovation.  He was asked whether Microsoft had surpassed Apple in that regard and had some interesting things to say.

Wozniak said that he had seen “more of the type of innovation” at Microsoft that left him saying: “Whoa, they really changed things drastically. Whoa, they aren’t even going in the same direction as everyone else, meaning the iPhone and the Android operating systems.”

He continued to say that he fears Microsoft “may have been sitting in their labs, while Apple was just used to cranking out the newest iPhone and falling behind.” He said it worries him greatly, and when asked why, replied “because of my love for Apple”.

Microsoft have been thought of in recent years to be lagging behind the likes of Google and Apple, but have very recently, albeit a bit late, come to the party in a huge way. With the launch of their own tablet, the Surface, together with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is trying to become a large player in the mobile market as well, relying on their integration capabilities with traditional desktop based PC computers. Windows Phone is different to Android and iOS in that it is an information-centric operating system rather than an application-centric one.

We have seen some interesting things from Microsoft in their new product line up, and the Surface looks like a potential winner. But could Steve be correct, is Apple really falling behind in the innovation race?

That seems to be the feeling in the general public as well, with many Apple fans crying foul after the launch of the latest iPhone 5 (not that it stopped them from buying one, or several in fact). Steve Wozniak may have a point, in my opinion. I would hate to see Apple go through what happened after the last “post-Jobs” era, where they started churning out Macintosh after Macintosh iterations with slight improvements. We all know what happened to the company back then and they brought Jobs back to right the ship.

Wozniak went on; “Apple had some bad times” referring to the Mac debacle I mentioned above, “Improving is not Apple-style innovation. It’s not like you’re creating something astounding, that you’re just gasping because it’s so unexpected,” said Wozniak. When Steve Jobs came back, he noted, that changed.

This time though, Apple doesn’t have that safety net to return to. Apple’s innovation over the years was a lot different from, for example, Samsung’s. They are obviously both very successful with different innovation models. Apple is more of what we call a “need seeker”, someone that identifies needs in the market that have not been met and then creates a product around that. Samsung, however, is more of a “market reader”, innovating around current market trends, or what could be called a “fast follower”. However, I feel Apple’s model might be moving in the same direction (just look at how Apple finally gave in and gave the iPhone 5 a bigger screen).

We will have to wait and see how successful Microsoft’s new products are. One thing is for sure, though. They certainly went back to the drawing board and tried to step outside the box. The potential with their mobile devices integrating with other Microsoft products is astounding. Imagine taking your work home with you, massive Excel or any other Office files, and being able to work on them like you would on a laptop. Imagine being able to connect to a server with your tablet running a fully functional SQL Server, or using Microsoft Reporting Services churning out report after report for your boss on the go. The possibilities do seem endless.

This isn’t to say that Microsoft’s innovations will be financially successful, though. But I think Wozniak is right to point out that Microsoft has done some seriously innovative work, where Apple hasn’t done anything truly different in some time now. I would hate to see Apple stagnate and rely on their current customer base to stay loyal.

What are your thoughts on Steve Wozniak’s words?

Comments

  • cmyplay

    Just because the vast majority of Apple’s competitors are providing matching features and (in Android’s case) matching interfaces, doesn’t mean that Apple has stopped innovating. It means that people are having trouble seeing how innovative Apple is when their IP is diluted by their competitors.

    Granted, WP8 is a breath of fresh air, but Microsoft doesn’t have competitors rushing to bring out copycat products. This is because it’s starting from a disadvantaged position and all the competitors in the mobile space are well into their respective strategies at this stage.

  • sobit2646

    I think his msg is profound cause its also similar to my thinking. Apple has been stagnant & MS is being innovative. Also my biggest gripe with tables has been that its not a work machine, only nice to play with.

  • wing_nut

    Who remembers – IBM DOS?
    Who remembers – WANG?
    Who remembers – Multiplan?
    Who remembers – Corel Suite?
    All had the attitude of “It’s *my* way …or no way!” and where are these Companies today?
    Apple……watch out : History tends to repeat itself!!

  • Kromas

    Depends on your field of work. I use my tabs almost as much as my laptop and desktop and I would be lost without it currently. I can see office jockeys not needing one but there are plenty of field where a tablet is much muich better than a laptop.

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