Apple, Microsoft Cut Hype, Boost Candor in Recent Product Rollout
The biggest difference between Apple and Microsoft from the viewpoint of us tech journalists was guessing when Gates' first product demonstration crash would happen. In those days, the "blue screen of death" frequently joined Gates on stage. So, what gives? In the world of enterprise IT, the value of surprise is vastly overrated. As an IT manager, you need as much information about what's coming for your major platforms as you can get. You need to know what changes there will be in regards to how your mission-critical applications will run, you need to know how security will change, and you need to know how your admin workload will change. The sooner you know those things, the better you can plan for adoption—or, in some cases, as with Windows 8, the better you can plan how you're going to work around the problem.But those same enterprise customers buy computers, infrastructure and software on a multi-year cycle. They aren't going to upgrade a tablet or a laptop every year, and they're not going to buy their employees new phones every year. But they are going to expect the technology they do buy to work for the duration of its economic lifecycle—thus, the discomfort with surprises. Apple's Tim Cook has the foresight to see that enterprise users are an important part of Apple's future, but to make that work, those customers needed to be courted in ways that make them comfortable. This is why you're seeing the silly market rivalries vanish, a hiatus on the name-calling end and an apparent new atmosphere of respect and cooperation emerge-at least for a little while. Consumers, of course, enjoyed the faux drama and the histrionics, and a substantial part of IT industry news media loved them, too. That is why the scribes have labeled this most recent round of announcements "boring." But in reality, the announcements aren't boring; they displayed less of the usual manipulated drama. Instead, you're seeing real, substantial progress announced in a way that works for the users who have to depend on this stuff for their livelihoods. That's why, for enterprise managers, drama is overrated. In fact, drama isn't desired at all. What's needed is predictability and consistency. Their bottom lines depend on it, and now, so do Apple's and Microsoft's.
What Apple and Microsoft have learned and other vendors, such as Google, have yet to learn, is that long-term success lies in the enterprise. It is, after all, enterprise buyers who may place orders in the hundreds of thousands and who are willing to pay for software updates that consumers want for free.